Visits to USS Arizona Memorial suspended as dock repairs continue

Photo: Brenda Pimentel

Officials said the USS Arizona Memorial will not reopen to visitors by June 4, as originally thought.

Visits were suspended last Wednesday morning, May 27, due to damage at the memorial’s floating dock.

Now, the National Park Service says, the memorial may not reopen until Friday, June 5, at the earliest, or even sometime next week.

According to Abby Wines of NPS, the U.S. Navy is working to properly align the floating dock with the memorial and then place the bridge, known as the brow, that connects the two. After that, inspections will be conducted to ensure everything is safe.

At around 7:30 a.m., two tugboats were pulling the hospital ship USNS Mercy out to sea. The U.S. Navy said the ship may have made contact with the floating dock leading to the memorial.

Strong prop wash from the ship pushed the floating dock and access structure, also known as the brow, approximately 10 feet toward the memorial, damaging handrails and the dock’s infrastructure, officials said.

Kailakalani Manago saw it happen from the bow of the USS Missouri.

“Looked like the tug boats guiding the Mercy overcompensated on power or misjudged the space. The Mercy’s rudder ran right in to the USS Arizona’s loading pier. The tugs were turning the ship around so the bow faced the entrance,” Manago said. “The ship hit the loading pier strong enough to cause it to sink down for a few seconds. At that time the Mercy’s screws (propellers) seemed to be on full steam to help push them away from the memorial.”

Officials said the memorial experienced minor superficial damage and the remains of the USS Arizona vessel were not damaged. There was no apparent damage to the Mercy and no one was hurt.

The Navy removed the brow and immediately began repairing the above-water floating dock and access structure and evaluating the underwater mooring system of chains and concrete block anchors.

Passenger traffic onto the memorial has been suspended until all repairs are complete. Officials said work should be done by June 3.

In the meantime, boat tours are operating out of Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, however passengers will not be able to disembark at the memorial.

“If you get a ticket, you’ll still be able to watch the video inside the theater,” one worker told visitors. “You’ll still go on the shuttle boat. The boat’s gonna take you out and around the memorial and bring you back here, because there’s no way to safely land the boat at the dock and then walk around inside the memorial.”

“Today what we’re doing is a workaround to give people an opportunity for some experience out here at the USS Arizona,” Wines explained. “The regular Navy white boats that can accommodate 150 people in each trip, they’re going out every 15 minutes, going out to a point near the (USS) Nevada, where the Nevada was birthed, and viewing the Arizona from a distance.”

Faith Kreist, who was visiting from Portland, Ore., said the experience was still a powerful one.

“(They) allowed us to take pictures, stand up, to be able to be upfront and forward, yes, it was a very satisfactory, excellent trip out,” she said. “My granddaughter, it’s her first trip out here. I had been out here several times and been lucky enough to be able to go on the memorial, but I think she got a thrill out of it.”

National Park Service and Navy divers conducted an underwater assessment of the dock, memorial and the sunken remains of the USS Arizona Wednesday afternoon. Officials said the memorial was not damaged.

“There’s some concrete pieces that have come loose from where we changed the anchors there, but they’re small and kind of superficial,” said Capt. Stanley Keeve Jr., commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “The majority of the damage itself is to the platform and to the brow and to the staircase itself.”

Superintendent Paul DePrey stated, “We deeply regret the impact this will have on visitors’ experience, but we want to make sure that everyone has a safe visit. We will work closely with the Navy to resume access to the Memorial as soon as safety allows.”

Officials reported a significant drop in attendance since the incident. Wines said boats tours have dropped to about 60 percent of full capacity per day, from 4,350 visitors to about 2,800.

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites partners — the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin Submarine — all remain open.

“We definitely want visitors to know that if this is your only trip to Oahu, you’re only here for a week or so, come out and visit us anyway. There’s still plenty of things to see here,” Wines said.

More than 5,000 people visit the Pearl Harbor Historic sites daily.

Photo: Brenda Pimentel
Photo: Brenda Pimentel

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