Ship that hit Mathews Bridge moves to Blount Island

USNS Martin under tow hit the Mathews Bridge in September

Buttress of USNS Martin clears Mathews Bridge as it is moved Wednesday morning.
Buttress of USNS Martin clears Mathews Bridge as it is moved Wednesday morning.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The ship that struck the Mathews Bridge six weeks ago was moved from a dock at Talleyrand to the Blount Island Command Wednesday morning after two days of delays due to high wind conditions.

The USNS 1ST LT Harry L. Martin departed for Blount Island Command before 9 a.m. and passed safely under the Mathews Bridge a little before 9:30 a.m.

While under tow in the St. Johns River on Sept. 26. the USNS Martin's port-side stern ramp buttress struck the span, damaging a support beam and causing other damage that kept the bridge closed for nearly five weeks and cost about $3 million to repair.

Martin's stern ramp buttress was also damaged in the impact. Repairs are anticipated to occur at Blount Island Command. River and bridge traffic stopped during the incident, but no injuries were reported. The U.S. Coast Guard is still investigating the incident.

The USS Martin was slated to depart the North Florida Shipyard the morning on Monday returning to the ship's usual layberth at Blount Island Command.

Another surge sealift ship, USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016), was scheduled to leave the Tuesday, also returning to Blount Island Command.

Both Martin and Wheat will depart the North Florida Shipyard under their own propulsion, each with a crew of approximately 20 mariners per Coast Guard regulations. Military Sealift Command, in cooperation with the Coast Guard and local authorities, has taken extra precautions to ensure a safe, successful transit, including an extra pilot and escort tugs.

Martin is a 754-foot dry cargo ship maintained by MSC as a surge sealift vessel for point-to-point transport of outsized military cargo, including vehicles, when called upon. The ship is usually kept in a reduced operating status at Blount Island Command, with minimal crew aboard to maintain the ship's critical systems.

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.