SLUG: 5-47245 Blue Marlin DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: A Norwegian-owned semi-submersible heavy lift ship called the Blue Marlin is to arrive in the Yemeni harbor of Aden shortly to salvage the U-S destroyer Cole, damaged earlier this month in a terrorist attack. V-O-A Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida reports on this unique operation.

TEXT: When a deadly terrorist bomb blew a hole some 13 by 15 meters in the side of the Cole directly at the waterline, sailors had to struggle for days to keep the vessel from sinking. Navy officials say the destroyer is now stable. Pumping and shoring efforts inside the Cole have kept it afloat to face the ship's next challenge: a lengthy trip back to the United States for permanent repairs.

But the Cole is too badly damaged to make the journey on its own power. Instead, it will be carried aboard another ship: the huge, 217-meter long, 56 thousand metric ton heavy lift vessel, the Blue Marlin.

The Norwegian-owned ship has a cargo bed that will be submerged and then steered directly underneath the damaged destroyer. The bed will then rise up and hoist the Cole out of the water.

Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, explains the process:


You literally sink the vessel, flood her down to a seawater or sea level depth, and then the Cole is then placed on top, pump out the tanks and the vessel rises with the Cole in support skids to support the transit.


The Cole will first be towed out of Aden harbor into deeper water. Experts said the support struts will have to be carefully positioned to cradle the damaged hull.

Only then, says Admiral Quigley, will the expected month-long piggyback journey to the United States get under way.


As soon as she is secure on board and everything has checked, she'll start the transit back to the United States.


Although the Blue Marlin only entered service this year, it has already carried out one other job for the U-S Navy. In July, she loaded not one but two minesweepers onto her cargo deck at a single time and transported them from Corpus Christie, Texas to the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain via the Suez Canal.

The Blue Marlin is one of two identical ships the other is called the Black Marlin operated by Offshore Heavy Transport of Oslo, Norway. In addition to minesweepers and other navy vessels, they have carried oil drilling rigs and floating drydocks.