Battleship New Jersey leaves port for the first time in 20 years for drydock refurbishment

The battleship returns to the dock where it was originally built in the early '40s for extensive repairs and new paint.

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A person walks in Philadelphia across the Delaware River from the USS New Jersey in Camden, N.J., Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

A person walks in Philadelphia across the Delaware River from the USS New Jersey in Camden, N.J., Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Battleship New Jersey is leaving port for the first time in more than two decades for major repairs.

Battleship CEO Marshall Spevak said officials will host a ceremony Thursday morning before taking the ship to Paulsboro on the first leg of its multi-day trip to drydock.

“The ship gets ballasted in Paulsboro, which means we are adding about 2,000 tons of water to the ship’s tanks to essentially even the ship out from bow to stern so that when we enter the dry dock in Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on March 27th, we’re essentially making sure that the ship and the hull, when it sits down on the blocks at the shipyard, it doesn’t crack the hull in half.”

Once the work in Paulsboro is completed, the ship will be towed across the river to the Navy Yard, where it was built and launched on December 7, 1942.

The trip from Paulsboro to Drydock 3 is expected to take only about one hour. Once in place, about 6,000,000 gallons of water in the dock will be drained so that technicians can make repairs to the ship.

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The process is just one step in a multi-faceted project to fix the ship. The coating will be redone, and a system that shows if the hull is rusting will be converted from saltwater to freshwater since the portion of the Delaware River where the vessel rests is now fresh water. Workers will also repair the covers for holes that pulled in salt water to cool the massive ship’s engines when it was being propelled under its own power. At least one of the 160 covers has sprung a leak and will be repaired, and the others will be examined and fixed if necessary.

The Battleship USS New Jersey passes under the Brooklyn Bridge
The 52,000-ton Battleship USS New Jersey passes under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Jan. 31, 1948, en route to Gravesend Bay to unload her ammunition and then back to the Brooklyn Navy yard for stripping. (AP Photo/Joe Caneva, File)

A weekend tour schedule has been set up so people can go into the drydock and touch the ship’s hull.

“Dry dock tours are $225 a ticket and $1000, that’s if you want to take an exclusive tour with our ship’s curator Ryan Semanski,” Spevak said.

About 1,200 tickets have been sold, and the remainder are expected to go fast once the ship floats into drydock. The tours will help defray the costs of the repairs, which stands at $10 million. The special tours will also help offset the additional money lost when the ship will not be open as a museum for the length of the repairs.

Organizers also started a “Donate to Drydock” campaign to help offset costs.

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Construction on the New Jersey started in September 1940, before the U.S. officially joined the battle in World War II. It was commissioned for service in 1943, where it saw more combat than any other ship in its class. It took part in campaigns in the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, the Marianas Islands, New Guinea, the Palau Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The ship was decommissioned in 1948 and reactivated in Korea between 1950 and 1957. It returned to Philly and was modernized between 1967 and 1968 for service in Vietnam. After an extended fight over what location would host the ship as a museum, it was finally berthed in Camden in 2001.

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