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South Jersey

November 02, 1999

Ailing tugboat could be back to towing battleship by week's end

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau

It appears mechanical problems on the tug towing the Battleship New Jersey to Philadelphia are relatively minor and the ailing Sea Victory will be back to full power by tonight. No one will commit, however, to an arrival date.

"The engine looks to be in good shape, and the engineers suspect that the turbo's clutch had seized," said Ryan Malane of Crowley Maritime Services.

Seattle-based Crowley is towing the Navy's most decorated warship from the mothball fleet in Bremerton, Wash. The New Jersey will stay in Philadelphia until the Navy decides where the ship will become a floating museum and memorial to those who served their country. Camden and Bayonne both want it.

On Oct. 23, two days after the tug and ship left the Panama Canal, a turbo - a device used to boost engine power - malfunctioned. The 1,800-pound turbo was replaced, but the spare, too, malfunctioned.

Crowley sent the tug Mariner from Lake Charles, La., to rendezvous with the Sea Victory. The Mariner, a little smaller than the Sea Victory and with less forward thrust, took over the tow Sunday morning after the ship and tugs were positioned near Cuba to give some protection from high wind and seas.

Even so, the exchange - a delicate maneuver involving the two 150-foot tugs and the mammoth 45,000-ton battleship - took place in eight-foot swells.

"The guys made sure that the ship was taken care of and they didn't take any risks. This is truly a commendable effort to pass off a tow and not bend to the time pressure to try it in bad weather," Malane said.

The Mariner continued pulling the "Big J" on the course set by Sea Victory Capt. Kaare Ogaard while he, his tug and crew, and an engineering specialist brought out on the Mariner proceeded on one of its two engines to Miami for repairs.

Plans call for the Sea Victory to meet the Mariner in the Gulf of Mexico later in the week and take back the tow.

Originally, the ship was to ends its final voyage, a 5,800-mile journey, in Philadelphia Nov. 7. After the malfunctions, Crowley said it would be more like Nov. 10. Now, it could be Nov. 11 or Nov. 12 or even later. "It depends on many factors," Malane said.

The 877-foot-long dreadnought, recognizable by the huge "62" emblazoned on its bow, left Bremerton Sept. 12 for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where it was launched Dec. 7, 1942, one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It is one of four ships in the Iowa class. The others are the Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Since the New Jersey was the flagship of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, the surrender of Japan should have occurred on the "Big J" but the Missouri was chosen for that. The Missouri was named for the home state of the man who gave the order, President Harry S. Truman.

The grand old battlewagon went on to serve in Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon. It won 16 battle stars and numerous other awards.

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