By CAROL COMEGNO
Officials hope to decide today whether they can proceed with plans to move the historic battleship USS New Jersey to its permanent pier Sunday. But that depends on Coast Guard approval.
The Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit South Jersey group in charge of converting the ship into a floating museum and memorial, debated the issue Wednesday night. The long- awaited move has been in doubt since Tuesday's terrorist acts in New York City and Washington.
Although the alliance's board wants to move the ship Sunday, officials said that will depend on whether it receives clearance from the Coast Guard.
On high alert since the attacks, the Coast Guard has been involved in other activities that could take priority over establishing a safety zone for the towing of the historic ship.
"The president said we can't allow the terrorists to prevail by creating chaos and retreat on our part," said Patricia Jones, alliance co-chair. "The ship is a symbol of a nation that rallied in the past to fight adversity and will again."
If the move happens, Jones said, it would be a solemn occasion marked by prayer and the singing of the national anthem on board. That would be a stark contrast to the joyous celebration originally planned.
The move also might be accompanied by some type of memorial service at Wiggins Park, perhaps sponsored by Camden County and several local businesses.
The ship was scheduled to be moved Sunday to its permanent mooring on the Waterfront behind the Tweeter Center. It was set to leave its repair dock at the Broadway Terminal of the South Jersey Port Corp. at 11 a.m. and arrive at its new $11 million pier by 1 p.m.
Lt. Cmdr. Dave Ford, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Philadelphia, said the alliance has been advised that the planned move may need to be postponed "due to the pending threat assessment."
Without Coast Guard approval, the 887-foot long ship cannot be towed up the river from its repair site at the Broadway Terminal. The Coast Guard is needed to establish a safety zone around the ship to keep other river traffic at a safe distance.
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