• Kyodo

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The U.S. Navy submarine that collided with a Japanese high school fisheries training vessel Feb. 9 is back in the water after nearly six weeks in dry dock, navy officials said Tuesday.

The USS Greeneville left the dock after the navy spent $2 million on repairs. The crew, including a new captain, is preparing for a graduated series of refresher training steps.

“This means that the repairs are done and the crew can get back to preparing (to get) under way,” said Jon Yoshishige, a navy media officer.

After the collision and subsequent sinking of the 499-ton Ehime Maru, from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, the sub entered dry dock Feb. 20. Repairs were made to its rubber skin and rudder.

The sub’s release from the dock is the first step in the process of ensuring the vessel and its crew are seaworthy. The training will include a “fast cruise,” in which the crew simulates being at sea while the sub remains tied to a pier.

Sometime in mid-April, officials expect the sub will get under way for a brief one- or two-day sea trial around the Hawaiian Islands.

Prior to the accident, the 6,080-ton nuclear-powered sub had been scheduled for a six-month deployment around the Western Pacific. That schedule is under review.

The Greeneville crew is now under the command of Capt. Tony Cortese, who replaced former skipper Cmdr. Scott Waddle. Also on board are Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer and Lt.j.g. Michael Coen, the two other officers whose actions were investigated by a U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry into the accident.

Adm. Thomas Fargo, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, is awaiting a recommendation from the three admirals who presided over the court of inquiry before determining what action to take in the aftermath of the collision.

The collision left nine Japanese lost at sea, including four teenage students.

The navy is also trying to assess the potential environmental hazards involved in salvaging the Ehime Maru, which lies 600 meters down off Oahu Island.

While the navy is spearheading the environmental assessment of the salvage effort, Hawaii state officials and representatives from federal agencies are also providing input.

“The state is involved in the salvage effort to the extent that permits may be needed to move the vessel into state waters, or to monitor possible leaks of petroleum or other hazardous material,” said Kim Murakawa, press secretary for the governor of Hawaii. “We are supporting the navy’s effort to salvage the ship.”

The next meeting of representatives from the three entities will take place Thursday in Honolulu, according to state officials.

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