It’s time to wave in the USS Fitzgerald as it reaches Pascagoula

The USS Fitzgerald arrives in South Mississippi on Friday morning, and the public is invited to welcome the beleaguered ship.

The guided missile destroyer will end what’s been a very long journey when it arrives at about 10 a.m. Coast residents can greet the ship as it passes Point Park on the west tip of Beach Boulevard in Pascagoula, where employees from Ingalls Shipbuilding will be handing out flags for people to wave.

Those who want to attend should turn south off U.S. 90 onto Pascagoula Street or Market Street, proceed to the beach and turn right. The park offers great views and lot of parking. With a forecast for chilly morning temperatures along the waterfront, people should dress warmly.

It’s fitting that South Mississippi, a place that knows about resilience and comeback, was selected by the U.S. Navy to repair the the Fitzgerald, which was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine and launched in January 1994.

In June the ship collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan. Seven crew members died and the destroyer was seriously damaged.

Then when it was being loaded onto a transport ship for its trip to Pascagoula, the Fitzgerald was damaged again, adding two new punctures in the ship’s hull. After additional emergency repairs, the transport and Fitzgerald resumed their journey to South Mississippi.

“Ingalls and all of its employees regret the tragic circumstances that will bring the ship to Pascagoula,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias, “but it is an honor and a privilege to work with the Navy to return the ship to the fleet in the shortest time possible.”

The Navy said it chose Ingalls Shipbuilding because the shipyard is the only Arleigh Burke-class shipbuilder with the available capacity “to restore USS Fitzgerald to full operational status in the shortest period of time with minimal disruption to ongoing repair and new construction work.”

The Pascagoula shipyard and its employees have considerable experience repairing Navy ships. Ingalls also repaired the frigate USS Stark after it was struck by missiles from an Iraqi jet during the Iran-Iraq War in 1987 and 37 Navy personnel were killed and 21 injured. The shipyard repaired the USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer in the same class as Fitzgerald, which was bombed in a terrorist attack against in 2000 while it was being refueled in the Yemen harbor. Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 injured.

Those who can’t attend Friday’s arrival of the USS Fitzgerald will be able to see the ship docked in Pascagoula as they drive by on U.S. 90. cording to a report in Maritime Herald, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said repair swill take more than a year to complete and could top $500 million.

If you go

What: Arrival of USS Fitzgerald at Ingalls Shipbuilding

When: About 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19

Where: Watch from Point Park in Pascagoula