By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) brought the 7th Fleet’s flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) into dry dock for its extended docking selected restricted availability, June 1, 2016.
Personnel from SRF-JRMC’s docking office, carpenter shop, production operation shop, dive locker, lifting and handling department and Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka’s port operations coordinated the complex evolution to dry dock Blue Ridge which is the first and most important phase of this ship repair and modernization.
“Docking Blue Ridge in dry dock is a little trickier than docking a [guided missile destroyer] in the other dry docks,” said Docking Officer Lt. Timothy Policar. “That’s because the ship’s high freeboard is affected more by the wind. So, we had to rely on the powered capstans more, and less on the pusher boats than we normally do. The evolution is also much longer because of the size of the dry dock. It just takes a long time to pump all that water out.”
The last time Blue Ridge was in dry dock for an availability of this kind was 2010.
After a brief two-hour delay caused by weather conditions, Blue Ridge and the port operation boats arrived in front of the dock and began docking the vessel. SRF-JRMC carpenter shop workers handled the lines and communicated with the docking officer, dock master and assistant dock master to align the ship within the dock.
Once positioned, the water was pumped from the dock. This process must stop many times at different water levels to securely “land the ship” on the keel blocks. The final phases involved command divers inspecting the keel blocks, hull and positioning.
“The moment we could start to feel comfortable was when the hull was safely placed on the keel blocks,” said Masaki Fukuda, the dock master and a naval architecture engineer.
Built in 1967 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pa. and commissioned in 1970, Blue Ridge is an amphibious command control ship forward deployed to 7th Fleet and stationed in Yokosuka. Its previous home was in San Diego from which it departed in 1979. It is named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern United States. Its full displacement is 18,874 tons and boasts 52 officers and 490 enlisted Sailors.
According to the assistant project superintendent, Masayuki Hirano, scheduled work for this availability includes turbine generator replacements, shore power and communication systems upgrades and shaft rudder repair.
“In order to accomplish such a large scale operation safely and smoothly, we have to prepare and have good communication with teams before and during the docking,” Fukuda said.
“Docking is equally very important as with every ship we support at Yokosuka Naval Base,” said Carpenter and Shipbuildingman Foreman B Katsutoshi Shimura. “Every ship must be safely and swiftly docked.”
“We met with the Blue Ridge team several times prior to the event, during which we established the docking timeline and procedure,” said Lt. Robert Johanson, the SRF-JRMC docking officer under instruction. “The plan was executed almost perfectly. The [Blue Ridge] docking was a complicated evolution, but it was successfully completed with just minor difficulty because of the team’s expertise and professionalism. It was a safe and efficient evolution, and it also was a testament to the good teamwork between SRF-JRMC, FLEACT Yokosuka and Blue Ridge.”