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Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
MSC PAO 01-01
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Rebecca Rogers
(202) 685-5055
January 09, 2001

USNS Yukon Returns to Duty
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Fleet oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) rejoins the Navy operational fleet this week following repairs resulting from a collision with amphibious transport ship USS Denver (LPD 9) off Hawaii last July.

"It's good to be back," said Captain Mark Wilson, civilian captain of the Military Sealift Command underway replenishment ship, "mariners belong at sea, not in a shipyard."

Yukon was in the mid-Pacific refueling the Bonhomme Richard amphibious strike group, of which Denver was a member. The group had completed a western Pacific and Persian Gulf deployment and was en route to Pearl Harbor and San Diego when the collision with Denver occurred. No one was injured, and no oil was spilled, but both ships received significant damage.

Yukon was preparing for USS Denver to come alongside for an underway replenishment of Denver's fuel tanks when the collision occurred on July 13. The investigation into the accident found USS Denver responsible. Yukon underwent structural repairs at Pearl Harbor and transited to San Francisco for further repairs at the same time as her scheduled routine overhaul.

Underway replenishment, or unrepping, can be dicey. Two ships travel side by side, about 140-180 feet apart, at a speed of about 13 knots or 20 miles an hour.

"In the best of sea conditions it requires a great deal of coordination between all the personnel controlling the ships and transferring the fuel. It's a very dynamic and potentially dangerous evolution, but when all goes well it's a very satisfying and professionally rewarding experience," says Captain Wilson.

Captain Wilson is a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. He has more than 20 years of experience with Military Sealift Command, and more than ten years as a master, the term for civilian ship captain.

Yukon departed San Diego last week en route for duty in the mid-Pacific operating from the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor. The ship will provide refueling services to the Navy fleet operating in the mid-Pacific Ocean area.

Yukon is one of 13 Navy fleet oilers operated by the Navy's Military Sealift Command. Yukon has a civilian mariner crew of 66 and a military department of 23.

Military Sealift Command is the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense. The command, part of the U.S. Navy, operates more than 110 active ships around the world. Ship missions vary from the transport and afloat prepositioning of defense cargo; to underway replenishment and other direct support to Navy ships at sea; to at-sea data collection for the U.S. military and other U.S. government agencies.

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