Ports reveal unprecedented surge in harmful emissions; officials blame COVID-19 logjam
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy has dramatically ramped up its ship cleaning operations as tensions with China escalate over the coronavirus outbreak and its economic impact.
At the same time, the Navy is being hamstrung in its ability to quickly send its blue water forces to respond to an emergency as it deals with COVID-19 at sea, according to a dozen former and current officials.
Navy officials acknowledged that ship cleaning is going on, but that it is not being as rapidly, or at the same pace, as other programs.
The Navy is cleaning 643 new ships in nine different shipyards, with an average of about 20 per yard per week, or just over 100 per month. That’s a pace that was unheard of before the coronavirus pandemic, even as the Navy and the industry are responding to a global threat.
“We’ve never had this many ships in our yards at once,” said Capt. David J. Goggin, the deputy chief of naval operations for logistics. “So what we are doing is a very good, proactive and fast way to go about tackling our major fleet readiness issues.”
The Pentagon’s top health executive, Dr. Robert Califf, estimated that there remain at least 250,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide. He said the Department of Defense reported a first-ever decline on Wednesday in the number of people in their 30s dying from the virus, and said the health care system would see a surge in new cases by mid-April.
That same day, the Navy reported that it had lost its oldest active-duty nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, at sea for reasons of corrosion, causing it to be sidelined until at least late July. The Navy said it would now use the USS Independence to replace Enterprise.
Last week, the Navy announced it would shut down a program to build and outfit a new aircraft carrier with 12 new Lockheed Martin nuclear-powered attack submarines, a program that is the mainstay of U.S. naval power. The new subs, which can carry 12