ETA for USS Independence delayed, now June 1

BROWNSVILLE — And things were going so well.

The decommissioned USS Independence “supercarrier” was nearing the end of its 16,000-mile journey to the Port of Brownsville from Bremerton, Wash., earlier this week when the tow vessel’s portside main engine failed, slowing the ship’s progress from 9 knots to 7.2 knots.

The Independence was scheduled to arrive May 30 at the Port of Brownsville, but now is expected to arrive late on May 31, barring any further issues. Right now it’s anticipated that the carrier, being towed to Brownsville for scrapping, will come through the Brazos Santiago Pass between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on June 1.

A ceremony to honor the Independence and the veterans who served on her will be held at Dolphin Cove in Isla Blanca Park as the carrier makes its way from the jetties to the Brownsville Ship Channel. Robert Berry, vice president of International Shipbreaking Ltd., part of the EMR Group, which won the Navy contract to dismantle the ship, said parking always is an issue when a carrier comes in, so people should arrive early.

The ceremony will feature comments from port and ISL officials, a color guard, salute and the national anthem as the Independence passes by, he said. Berry said the ceremony won’t be elaborate, but it is meant to give veterans something official by which to remember the occasion.

Meanwhile, the 60,000-ton Independence and its tow vessel, the Dino Chouest, were between Venezuela and Cuba on Thursday and making headway toward Brownsville despite the loss of an engine, with good weather on the horizon. It takes a lot to slow down a tow vessel of this size, Berry said.

“This is a big tugboat, he said. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever dealt with in a lifetime of dealing with tugboats.”

sclark@brownvilleherald.com