Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina –
Dec 12, 2008
In the early hours of Monday morning, December 1st, staff
personnel at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum noticed the
last remaining Sumner class destroyer in existence, the USS Laffey,
sitting lower than usual in the water.
When staff personnel arrived, they discovered five feet of
water in the lower section of the ship. As emergency
procedures began and pumping commenced, water was entering the ship
at a rate of 2,000 gallons per hour. After over 90,000 gallons
of sea water were pumped from the ship, the location of the leak was
determined late Wednesday evening. Environmental personnel
were called to oversee the operations to ensure that all procedures
were being conducted in a safe and efficient manner. There
were no hazardous materials released into the outside water.
Survey teams and divers were on the scene Thursday morning to
attempt temporary repairs and assess the extent of the hull’s
deterioration. By late afternoon Thursday, the leak was
stopped with an epoxy patch, thereby allowing a marine survey to be
Three weeks ago, five holes were discovered in the aft section of
the ship and 4,600 gallons of seawater were pumped out before
repairs could be made. The breach in the ship’s hull
discovered December 1 is unrelated to the earlier discovered holes.
The USS Laffey was last in dry dock 14 years ago when she underwent
repairs. At that time, extensive repairs were made to the hull
by welding metal plates over the deteriorated areas. The leak
discovered December 1 is located along a weld that began rusting,
causing a crack approximately 12 inches by one fourth of an inch.
As of Thursday morning, December 11, the epoxy patch was holding and
all water had been removed from the ship. Unfortunately, during the
day Thursday, staff personnel at the Patriots Point Naval and
Maritime Museum discovered the USS Laffey was again taking on water
through three holes that developed since the December 1 leaks were
repaired. Patriots Point’s pumps and a private contractor’s pumps
have been removing water from the Laffey. Divers started patching
the holes Thursday afternoon to stabilize the leaks. This morning,
the divers are continuing to work on the patches. A boom has been
deployed around the ship to prevent any possible contamination. The
US Coast Guard representatives have been on site to assist Patriots
The December 11 holes are not connected with the holes discovered
three weeks ago or those discovered on December 1, but they
highlight Patriots Point Development Authority’s challenges with the
cost and the need for constant maintenance of its aging fleet of
four naval museum vessels. An early estimate of the cost to tow the
USS Laffey to a repair facility and repair her is $3.5 million.
Patriots Point is weighing its alternatives to deal with the Laffey
given her deteriorated hull condition. In addition to this early
estimate of $3.5 million needed for the Laffey, the aircraft carrier
Yorktown, submarine Clamagore and Coast Guard Cutter Ingham
collectively need approximately $50 million of maintenance and
repairs. This need is not unique to Patriots Point's fleet. The
aircraft carrier museum ship Intrepid moored in New York recently
received over $120 million of repairs and maintenance.
For more information on the USS Laffey (DD-724) and her historic
background please go to our website at
and access “Ships & Museums – USS Laffey”.