The Port Royal: An Allegory?

There are rare (non-lethal) instances when there are no second chances. Even fatal incidents are more forgiving to surviving commanders than running one’s ship aground.

And such was the story when the billion-dollar USS Port Royal (CG-73) ran hard (read: almost permanently) aground Feb. 6 in a mere 17-22 feet of water. Bad news when you’re draftin’ 33 feet.

During her first outing since entering the repair yards four months ago, the Port Royal, the Navy’s final cruiser in the Ticonderoga class, came to rest just off Honolulu within sight of the airport. Early efforts to float her off the shoal at high tide failed. Towing attempts proved pointless. It was early Monday, more than 72 hours after the incident, that the Port Royal was freed. In fact, the crew had to lighten the load by hundreds of tons before their ship could be helped back to Pearl Harbor.

Can you imagine? Capt. John Carroll, USN, just assumed command in October 2008. This probably was one of his few times under way on his ship when BAM! He knows he’s lost command, but to sit there with the crew in a collective hell, watching Hawaiian Airlines ferry visitors in and out of paradise … brutal.

Interest in the mishap went all ahead full when it was learned the Port Royal dumped 5,000 gallons of raw sewage into the coastal waters. (This is a problem.) An always forthright Navy said the action was taken “to protect the health and welfare” of the crew. (Odd that it coincided with having to lighten the ship. Also, the Navy neglected to mention the health and welfare of the island’s residents.)

The U.S. Naval Institute’s blog (always worth the read) posted valuable information about the incident. Of even greater interest is that the entry garnered well over 100 comments — and more than a bunch o’ chatterin’ black shoes.

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