Video: New LCS USS Billings Makes Contact with Moored Bulker

USS Billings under way, June 2019 (video still via social media)

Published Jun 24, 2019 6:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

The newly-built Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Billings allided with a moored bulker at the port of Montreal, Quebec on Friday, according to the U.S. Navy. 

Naval Surface Force Atlantic has confirmed that the Billings struck the geared bulker Rosaire Desgagnes while Billings was leaving her slip. According to First Coast News, the incident occurred shortly after the two tugs that were assisting Billings cast off their tow lines.  

No injuries were reported. Billings has moored again at a pier near Montreal's Sainte-Marie neighborhood, and an investigation and damage assessment are under way. A Naval Surface Force Atlantic spokeswoman told media that the ship's starboard bridge wing suffered minor damage in the incident.

Video from the scene shows that Billings was stemming a strong current, and the direction of her exhaust stream suggests that the wind would have tended to set her towards shore. 

Video of the USS BILLINGS hitting the ROSAIRE A. DESGAGNÉS minutes after departing it’s berth at the Port of Montreal. Video credit : Shipspotting Canada via Anonymous

Posted by Steve Geronazzo on Monday, June 24, 2019

USS Billings was launched at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine yard in July 2017, and the Navy took delivery in February 2019. In June, she got under way from Wisconsin to transit to her future home port of Mayport, Florida. She is due to be commissioned in Key West this August.  

Both classes of Littoral Combat Ship have been plagued by maintenance problems, including three widely-reported mechanical failures affecting the Freedom-class vessels. In December 2015, USS Milwaukee suffered a lubricant contamination problem while under way in the Atlantic, leading to complete loss of power; the following month, USS Fort Worth suffered damage due to insufficient lubricating oil in her combining gears; and seven months later, in July, USS Freedom experienced seawater intrusion into a crankcase due to a failed seal, leading to severe engine damage. Human error played a role in several of these incidents, and critics of the LCS have pointed to the ship's reduced-manning operating concept, which leads to multirole workloads and long hours for crews. 

In January 2018, the Freedom-class LCS USS Little Rock encountered a different form of difficulty in Montreal: the ship was frozen in place by extreme cold weather. "Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify,” said Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson in a statement. “The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.”