Fitzgerald Finally Departs Japan for Repairs in Mississippi

The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald departed its Yokosuka homeport Saturday morning on board the heavy-lift vessel MV Transshelf. (US Navy photo/Benjamin Dobbs)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald departed its Yokosuka homeport Saturday morning on board the heavy-lift vessel MV Transshelf. (US Navy photo/Benjamin Dobbs)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- The collision-damaged USS Fitzgerald has finally left Japan for repairs stateside after an earlier attempt was canceled due to a botched loading process.

The guided-missile destroyer departed its Yokosuka homeport Saturday morning on board the heavy lift vessel MV Transshelf, the Navy said. The Fitzgerald is being taken to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., for repairs and upgrades.

A deadly collision on June 17 between the Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship killed seven sailors and injured three others. The Navy relieved the ship's two senior officers and a senior enlisted sailor. Several other officers and enlisted watch standers were also held accountable for the accident.

The crippled warship attempted to leave Yokosuka on Nov. 23, but was sent back days later to repair two new punctures in the ship's hull, caused by the Transshelf's steel support structure during loading.

Huntington Ingalls Industries was chosen to repair the destroyer because the company would be able to restore the ship in the shortest amount of time, Naval Sea Systems Command said in an August statement.

"Given the complexity of the work and the significant unknowns of the restoration, the Navy determined that only an Arleigh Burke-class shipbuilder could perform the effort," the statement said.

The project's start date, scope, cost and timeline are still to be determined, it added.

The Fitzgerald incident was the first of two deadly accidents involving U.S. warships in the Pacific this year. Ten more sailors were killed in August when the USS John. S. McCain, also homeported at Yokosuka, collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore.

The McCain, scheduled for repair at Yokosuka, has been delayed in reaching its homeport after the discovery of additional cracks in its hull diverted the ship to the Philippines.

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