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Ronald Reagan Shipyard “derailment” derails re-commissioning date

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  At last week’s cabinet meeting, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said there was an incident recently at the government owned Ronald Reagan Shipyard at Satala and that the shipyard board of directors is carrying out a review of the incident.

The governor didn’t say when the incident occurred or details of it, but he did say that he is awaiting the board’s final report, which would be shared with the cabinet members to see what needs to be done next.

According to the governor, Peter Fuimaono from the Insurance Commissioner’s Office visited the shipyard to assess the damage so the insurance claim of the incident can be filed as soon as possible.

Samoa News was able to see a copy of a ten-page report, dated Oct. 8th, of a shipyard inquiry summary report (ISR) regarding a slipway “derailment” incident on Oct. 1st.

The report first explains that prior to the incident, the slipway’s restoration project was about 68% completed, with only few major components left to be attached such as, horizontal-beams (long), uprights, catwalk, and decking, which could easily be achieved in three (3) months.

Target date for completion was the end of December this year, but with the unforeseen incident, a re-commissioning date is now on hold and unknown, the report states.

Regarding the incident impact on shipyard operation, the report said the delay will have both economic impact to various industries — fishing and maritime — that the shipyard supports, and a financial shock on the shipyard in terms of bringing in revenues to sustain its internal operation.

“While the actual and full impact of this incident is unclear at this time but, it is estimated to reach a cost of $1- 2 million in revenues lost,” it says.

The incident occurred about 9a.m. as shipyard crews began their routine testing, of the partially completed slipway as scheduled, according to the report provided by the shipyard management to the governor.

The report explained that the “testing regime is a necessary drill we’ve adopted and deployed to constantly monitor the slipway’s progress and more so, its performance.” It also explained the testing process and the reason for it.

A brief description of the incident in the report states that during the testing process “regrettably both cradles, forward and after-end, unpredictably went off their tracks, simultaneously. Inexplicable, at the time, the cradles parted from the tracks without any signs and/or warnings.”

“Ironically, the first-round of tests went without a glitch. It was however, the second series of tests, when the “wheels came off the track” unexpectedly,” according to the report, which states in a footnote that “derailments” is not an uncommon phenomenon for this type of railing design.

It explained that the slipway has already had two derailments prior to this incident. Because this system harbors too many moving parts, any one dysfunctional piece or a combination thereof several components, acting individually or in concert could easily throw the cradle from its tracks, even at normal operations, it says.

“However, considering the massive reconstruction effort that is taking place now, such would exponentially raise the level of probability for a derailment to occur,” it says.

The report also provided background information on shipyard and the current restoration of the slipway.

A “summary of likely reasons why the incident occurred” is included in the report, as well as those involved in the investigation from the shipyard and people who were interviewed; along with employees who oversaw the slipway testing.

After studying all the available evidence, it is determined and recommended by investigators that a salvage and recovery plan must be commissioned without delay; and such a plan must also be reviewed and approved by the CEO.

The plan is to ostensibly re-position both cradles (forward and after-end) back on their respective tracks . Although, the task seemed straight forward but, the lack of heavy-duty equipment and specialized machineries locally would present challenges to this seemingly simple enterprise.

However, the “mechanics” of such an undertaking shall be “left up” to and “spelled” out in detail by aforesaid Salvage and Recovery Plan (SRP), subject to the review, modification, and approval by the CEO before any work proceeds as well as his periodic monitoring from time to time during the recovery phase.

The report recommends that contractor to perform the salvage operation shall ensure that it integrates the deployment and utilization of the shipyard crews in specific area of expertise and at the appropriate places.

Because of the “urgency of the matter,” the report said the CEO has involved his authority to “sole-source” this work to a qualify salvage operate and with marine surveying experience, underwater diving capability, and rigging and welding capabilities.

Moreover, the contractor must also possess the intimate knowledge of and experience with how the “slipway” operates, and in the context of the shipyard.