21 Apr 2011 By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS DefenseNews
U.S. Navy investigators are continuing to re-examine the work done by contractors on the amphibious ship San Antonio (LPD 17) in hopes the ship, sidelined for more than a year of repairs, can get to sea by the end of the month for engineering trials. While San Antonio, delivered in 2005, has a long history of problems, the new issue involves poor and improper documentation of repair work carried out in recent months. Earl Industries, a shipyard in Norfolk, Va., was in charge of the overhaul, which included work done by diesel engine manufacture Fairbanks Morse on the ship's Colt Pielstick diesel engines. Now, the Navy organization responsible for overseeing Earl's work, the Norfolk Ship Support Activity, has had its oversight authority suspended by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). A "senior NAVSEA officer" has been assigned to carry out technical authority oversight duties, NAVSEA said in a statement, "until confidence is restored." At least one senior official reportedly already has been sacked, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, which said Thomas J. Murphy, the command's executive director, was replaced last week. NAVSEA would not address personnel inquiries, citing privacy concerns. The inaccurate or incomplete reports, NAVSEA said, were generated between January and July 2010, but did not come to light until mid-April. NAVSEA stressed that the documentation issues are not related to previous problems with the ship, including issues with engine alignment or foundation bolts. No schedule delays have been caused by the investigation, NAVSEA said.