Costs grow as USS Orleck prepares for move to Jacksonville
The cost of bringing the USS Orleck to Jacksonville as a floating naval museum has grown to $2 million, more than 50% higher than when plans were first announced.
The World War II era destroyer has been restored Port Arthur, Texas, and was floated out for a five-hour trial on Feb. 24. The 77-year-old ship floated perfectly with no reported leaks, according to the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association, which is bring the Orleck to Jacksonville.
The rehab has extended the ship's life expectancy to 15 years, five years longer than originally estimated. This was accomplished in part by adding doubler plates — steel plates welded over all underwater hull openings and several spots where the hull was thin.
A special marine protection paint compound was applied in several layers to create an impenetrable, watertight hull, the association said. Work remains on the top side of the ship, but the Orleck is nearing completion.
"The ship looks nearly brand new and almost unrecognizable from the bright new paint work," the association said in a news release.
All of the work, however, has added to the cost, which was estimated at $1.3 million before the COVID-19 pandemic. That increased to $1.8 million as labor and materials increased in price. Additionally, Hurricane Laura caused at least $250,000 in damage while the ship served as a museum in Louisiana in 2020.
Further costs are in store to tow the ship from Texas to Jacksonville and prepare the pier and Orleck to open as a museum. The museum association is accepting donations here.
The Orleck could be ready for the 10- to 12-day tow to the Shipyards in Jacksonville in mid-March, the association said. The goal is to open the ship in June to help celebrate the city's bicentennial.
The Jacksonville Naval Museum will feature what the association calls "the U.S. Navy Cold War Experience," paying tribute to generations of veterans and serving as a gathering place for naval associations, crew reunions and military conventions.
The Orleck's service covered the Korean, Vietnam and Cold War periods. Known as the "Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast," the Orleck is the most decorated post-World War II ship ever built and was awarded 18 battle stars, according to the museum association.