Navy sub, transport ship in minor collision off Oman; no injuries

Monday, January 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. Navy submarine and an amphibious transport ship collided off the coast of Oman as they were getting ready to transfer two sailors, but no one was injured. The sub was the same one that collided with a Japanese fishing boat off the Hawaiian coast last year.

The incident Sunday punctured the fuel tank of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Ogden and caused some damage to the submarine USS Greeneville, Pentagon officials said Monday.

The Greeneville had collided with a Japanese fishing vessel off the Hawaiian coast on Feb. 9, 2001, leaving nine Japanese dead. And on its first major deployment after that incident, the sub grounded while trying to enter the Saipan seaport last August in rough seas.

Initial reports from the scene said the ships were on the surface about 40 miles off the coast of Oman in the Northern Arabian Sea.

``Both ships continue to operate safely,'' said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

The vessels were operating in support of the war in Afghanistan, Clarke said. The submarine was to continue on its planned journey to the island of Diego Garcia and will receive an underwater assessment of its damage there, Clarke said.

She said she did not know what repair plans were in store for the Ogden.

One Navy officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared from initial reports that the two ships made contact in their stern areas. The weather conditions were described as windy.

The collision occurred at 9:55 a.m. local time on Sunday, said the officer.

Two sailors from the sub were being transferred because of deaths in their families. They had been granted emergency leaves, the officer said.

The men were supposed to have been placed on a small boat from the Ogden and taken to the larger ship, but the transfer had not yet taken place at the time of the accident. Because of the collision, the transfer never took place.

The collision made a 5-inch-by-18-inch puncture in one of the Ogden's fuel tanks 15 feet below the water line on its right side. Several thousand gallons of light diesel fuel leaked into the sea, the officer said.

Because of windy conditions, the fuel headed away from shore and toward the open sea, the officer said.

The Greeneville's stern plane was damaged. That is a part of the submarine located at the back end of the vessel that acts as a wing to control the angle of the ship's movement, the officer said.

Clarke identified the commanders of the vessels as Cmdr. Lindsay Henkins of the Greeneville and Cmdr. William Edwards of the Ogden.

An investigation of the incident is under way, the Navy officer said.