The frigate USS Taylor, one of two Navy ships assigned to the Black Sea during the Sochi Winter Olympics, briefly ran aground last week in a Turkish port where it had gone to refuel.
There were no injuries in the incident which resulted in some damage to the ship’s propeller blades, but none to the ship’s hull. The ship remains in port as damage assessments continue.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe confirms that the frigate is being inspected for damage after it ran around last Wednesday while preparing to moor in the northern Turkish port of Samsun which is 240 miles southwest of Sochi. The vessel was able to moor without further incident.
“The extent of the damage is still being assessed,” Capt. Brenda Malone, spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Europe told ABC News. “An initial survey discovered that there was some damage to the propeller blades, but there appears to be no damage to the hull.”
She added that the ship is presently moored in Samsun where it was supposed to have made a brief stop for refueling and that it is too early to determine what impact the incident will have on its scheduled deployment in the Black Sea.
Navy officials said they did not know how close the ship was to the pier when the grounding occurred.
The USS Taylor and the amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney have been in the Black Sea since just before the start of the Sochi Olympics. They are assigned to a regular maritime security operation in the Black Sea, but Pentagon officials have acknowledged that it was available to the State Department to help assist with any potential evacuation of American citizens. Prior to the start of the Olympics threats by Islamic militants to target the Olympics were a main concern.
Naval enthusiasts have tracked both ships since they entered the Black Sea on Feb. 4and 5and turned on the navigation beacons known as AIS – Automatic Identification Signal – that are not normally turned on by U.S. Navy ships during deployments. The system is used by Navy ships mainly as they transit into and out of congested harbors.
AIS tracks showed both ships had positioned themselves 18 to 20 miles off the coast of Sochi in international waters. While there both ships did repeated back and forth patrols in international waters. International maritime boundaries begin 12 miles from a nation’s coastline.
The ship was tracked heading into Samsun on Wednesday, Feb. 12, where it has remained since as a result of the grounding.
The ship initially leaked 175 gallons of fuel from its prop, but it was contained by an oil boom set up by port authorities and the cleanup operation is complete.
Malone said the news of the grounding was not disclosed until almost a week later because the cause of the incident was not immediately clear based on initial reports. “It’s now apparent that the ship ran aground briefly and it’s appropriate for us to announce as details became clear,” said Malone.
The ship’s commander remains in command while the investigation into the grounding is underway.