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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

`Big J' towed to Broadway Terminal for renovation work

Courier-Post Staff

The battleship USS New Jersey arrived Tuesday at the South Camden site where it will be renovated into a floating memorial and museum.

A docking pilot directing four tugs eased the retired warship into a port terminal where mighty Navy ships were once built. Under sunshine and blue skies, the New Jersey arrived at Pier 1 of the South Jersey Port Corp.'s Broadway Terminal after being towed three-quarters of a mile down the Delaware River from the Beckett Street Terminal.

At Broadway, the battleship will undergo a $7.3 million overhaul as part of a more than $20 million project to open the ship as a floating museum on the Camden Waterfront in late 2001. The project also includes building a pier and welcome center.

The terminal where the renovation will take place is the former site of the New York Shipbuilding Corp., not far from where the ship was built at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Retired Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler cq , executive director of the nonprofit Home Port Alliance that is overseeing the project, said restoration is expected to take more than a year.

"Now we can finally get to the hands-on work," said Seigenthaler, whose group received the donated ship from the Navy last month.

Seigenthaler was one of those aboard the 58-year-old, 887-foot-long ship when it made its trip Tuesday. Also on board were mooring line handlers and a few members of the alliance, guests and Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J. The trip began at 1:45 p.m. and took less than an hour, though mooring took several more hours. The ship is docked with almost 100 feet of its stern beyond the end of the 850-foot pier. The move cost $15,000 for pilots, line handlers and tugs.

"It was so smooth," alliance member Ann Duvall said of the ride. "The niftiest part was when they turned her in the middle of the river."

Retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan, alliance president, said extensive restoration work will include underwater hull inspection and cleaning, hull and topside superstructure preservation and painting, teak deck replacement, removal of hazardous materials inside the ship, installation of security systems and creation of tour routes.

Following its restoration, the ship will be towed back upriver to a new T-shaped pier and landside visitor complex, also to be constructed near the State Aquarium.

"South Jersey Port is honored to house this historic ship. Many great ships were built at this facility, so it is meaningful that this ship comes here to a once-great shipbuilding site," said Joseph Balzano, South Jersey Port Corp. executive director and alliance member.

The carrier Kitty Hawk, the NS Savannah and nuclear submarines were among ships built at the former New York Ship.

There are no plans to open the ship to the public while work is under way.

Last week, an estimated 11,000 visitors went on board during a two-day preview.

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