Navy seeks new owner for retired research submarine, hopes to keep it in San Diego

Friday, February 2nd 2007, 7:40 pm
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Free to a good home: vintage submarine, recently restored. One prior owner.

That's not quite how the notice is worded, but that's the message from the Navy, which is looking for someone to take over the USS Dolphin, one of the oldest submarines in its fleet.

The Dolphin, a one-of-a-kind research vessel, was commissioned in 1968. In a notice published in this week's Federal Register, the Navy said it will accept offers from government agencies, nonprofit groups or other institutions willing to make the submarine into a museum.

The Navy hopes to keep the vessel in its home port of San Diego. Any new owner will also be required to keep the 165-foot sub in good condition.

``The donee will be required to maintain the vessel as a static display in a condition that is satisfactory to the Secretary of the Navy,'' the notice states.

Navy spokeswoman Pat Dolan said the Navy started its vessel donation program in 1945, when it gave the battleship Texas, a dreadnought that fought in both World Wars, to a state historic site near Houston. At least 47 other boats have been donated through the program, Dolan said.

Navy spokesman Lt. John Gay said the Dolphin was decommissioned Jan. 15 because the type of acoustic and engineering research it did could be performed by other vessels. Even so, the Navy spent about $60 million repairing the sub after it caught fire in May 2002.

Despite the recent investment in the Dolphin, Gay said, getting rid of the boat would save money in the long term, as operating costs for the aging vessel were more than $18 million a year.

The Dolphin was the last diesel-electric submarine in the U.S. fleet, though the Navy still has at least one other on lease from Sweden, Gay said.

Aspiring submarine owners have until March to submit offers.