Cole Coming Back To Life - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

NAVY VESSEL ALMOST READY TO RE-FLOAT

Cole Coming Back To Life

The USS Cole, the Navy destroyer damaged by a terrorist bomb nine months ago, is nearly ready to be refloated at the Mississippi shipyard where repairs are ongoing. Navy Comm. Steve Metz, who is overseeing repairs of the vessel at Northrop Grumman Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, said Monday that crews were wrapping up structural work on the $1 billion ship, which was attacked during a refueling stop in Yemen's Aden harbor Oct. 12.

``It looks real good, like any other ship,'' Metz said. The bomb blew a hole 40 feet high and 40 feet wide in the Cole's hull, killing 17 U.S. sailors. The investigation of the attack continues. By the middle of next month, Metz said, the Cole will be reloaded with equipment and other systems and placed in the water at the Ingalls yard, where it was built six years ago. After that, all equipment and systems will be engaged and tested, and the ship's crew will start returning in phases, he said. The Cole, based in Norfolk, Va., is scheduled to leave Ingalls in the spring.

Ingalls, Mississippi's largest private employer with some 10,000 employees, has used between 300 and 500 workers for repairs to the ship. Damage was so extensive to the Cole's port side that it had to be returned to the United States aboard the Norwegian-owned heavy-lift ship Blue Marlin. It arrived Dec. 13 at Ingalls, where it was christened in 1995. In December, the Navy estimated it would cost about $240 million to repair and refit the Cole. Ingalls received a $105 million contract in February to begin the work. The final tab will include costs for replacing damaged weapons, equipment and supplies. A full tally of costs was not available from the Navy on Monday.

Meanwhile, U.S. investigators looking into the bombing have returned to Yemen, nearly two months after leaving because of a security threat, the U.S. Embassy said during the weekend. The team of six investigators returned late last week. After a security threat was made June 9, the FBI withdrew its personnel investigating the bombing, the U.S. Embassy closed, and eight people were arrested in connection with an alleged plot on the embassy. The embassy reopened last month.

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