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New USS Cleveland damaged in tugboat collision during Navy christening

USS Cleveland (Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Stirrup/US Navy)

 A new U.S. Navy combat ship christened the USS Cleveland suffered minor damage when it slammed into a tugboat during its Saturday launch.

A statement from the U.S. Navy said that during the launch at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, “unintentional contact occurred between the ship and a supporting tug.”

“No personnel injuries occurred, but there was limited damage” to the USS Cleveland, the statement said. “The damaged area is well above the waterline and no flooding occurred.”

The ship was dropped into the Menominee River using a “side-launch” process. It struck the tugboat during its initial entry, before rocking back and forth as it stabilized in the water.

A Navy spokesman said the tugboat was too close to the ship due to a “miscommunication,” and the Navy and shipbuilder are investigating the incident’s cause. After the ship is repaired, it will eventually make its way to its permanent base in Mayport, Florida.

The Navy said the ship builder plans to phase out side launches in the future, and use a different mechanism that will allow more controlled launches.

The new combat ship is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the city’s name. The latest USS Cleveland is 387 feet long, has accommodations for 98 sailors, and room to carry two helicopters. It’s designed to perform missions along coastal areas, such as counteracting mines and submarines, and conducting coastal surface warfare.

“The new USS Cleveland will be able to reach and defend more coastal areas with more agility, and more network firepower than any other class of ship in the world,” Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly said when the ship’s construction was announced in 2018 at the USS Cod Submarine Memorial.

Modly, a native Clevelander, said the ship would cost from $600 million to $800 million, depending on the configuration.

His wife, Robyn, broke a bottle of sparkling wine across its bow to symbolically christen the ship during Saturday’s ceremony.

Speakers at the event included Austin Davis, a senior policy advisor and assistant law director for the City of Cleveland, who was there to represent Mayor Justin M. Bibb, the Eagle Herald of Marinette Menominee reported.

It said roughly 3,000 people ended the ceremony. The shipyard’s executive officer told the publication that it will use a new ship lift for future launches that will more slowly lower ships into the water.


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