USS San Francisco Briefing
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): April 6, 2005 - On Friday, April 01, 2005, President Joseph J. Urusemal received Ambassador Suzanne Hale and Commodore Bradley R. Gehrke, Commander U.S. Navy Submarine Squadron 15 and Lt. Commander Douglas Lito, COMNAVMAR Civil/Military Affairs Officer for an update on the USS San Francisco grounding. Also present at the briefing was Acting Secretary Lorin Robert who reiterated FSM Governments condolence to the tragic loss of Joseph Allen Ashley, and wished for the speedy recovery for those injured during the accident. Legal counsel staff from the FSM Congress were also in attendance.
Commodore Gehrke briefed the President on the exact location of the USS San Francisco grounding which he confirmed is in FSM EEZ, some 25 miles north of Satawal Island the State of Yap. He stated that the collision with a seamount caused damage to the nose of USS San Francisco, and further assured the President that there was no leakage of radioactive material into the ocean surroundings.
Deep sea rock fragments retrieved from the nose of San Francisco provided assurances that it hit a seamount rather than a reef. There was no evidence that the submarine, operating at a depth greater than 250 feet, damaged reefs or shallow water ecosystems, which do not grow below 160 feet.
Commodore Gehrke reported that the final report of the investigation into the grounding, still pending, would incorporate lessons learned from the incident in order to prevent a reoccurrence, and, it will be provided to the FSM once it is released to the public. He acknowledged the need for rapid communication between the United States and the FSM when such events take place. President Urusemal and Commodore Gehrke agreed there is need to enhance procedures for notification if such an even should occur. President Urusemal underscored the urgent need for prompt communication in the event that assistance by FSM patrol boats or other vessels are needed in emergency situations.
Thanking Ambassador Hale and Commodore Gehrke, President Urusemal recalled visits by the U.S. Navy ships in earlier times, and encouraged future port calls throughout the FSM, especially the outer islands. Commodore Gehrke stated that the U.S. Navy looked forward to continuing its strong, positive relationship with the FSM.
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