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The ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” drew U.S. and Japanese dignitaries, including Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Admiral James D. Kelly, second from right, to Yokosuka. The $120 million undertaking took 12 years to complete.

The ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” drew U.S. and Japanese dignitaries, including Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Admiral James D. Kelly, second from right, to Yokosuka. The $120 million undertaking took 12 years to complete. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

The ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” drew U.S. and Japanese dignitaries, including Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Admiral James D. Kelly, second from right, to Yokosuka. The $120 million undertaking took 12 years to complete.

The ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” drew U.S. and Japanese dignitaries, including Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Admiral James D. Kelly, second from right, to Yokosuka. The $120 million undertaking took 12 years to complete. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka commander Capt. Greg Cornish, right, was among the Navy officials at Yokosuka on Tuesday.

Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka commander Capt. Greg Cornish, right, was among the Navy officials at Yokosuka on Tuesday. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Admiral James D. Kelly spoke at the ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” in Yokosuka Tuesday.

Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Admiral James D. Kelly spoke at the ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” in Yokosuka Tuesday. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

USS Kitty Hawk sailors enjoy a pizza break on the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” in Yokosuka on Tuesday.

USS Kitty Hawk sailors enjoy a pizza break on the newly rebuilt “Berth 12” in Yokosuka on Tuesday. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Building a new home for the USS Kitty Hawk at Berth 12 at Yokosuka Naval Base wasn’t easy, Nobushige Takamizawa said.

“This host nation support project required 12 years, expenses of 12.8 billion yen (about $114 million) and faced every imaginable difficulty,” the Yokohama Defense Facilities Administration Bureau Director told an audience Tuesday.

“There was often speculation about the true purpose of the pier, but there have always been carriers based here, going back to the USS Midway,” Takamizawa said.

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington will moor there when it replaces Kitty Hawk in 2008, but it was not upgraded for that purpose, Takamizawa said.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony was Tuesday with speeches from American and Japanese dignitaries to celebrate the construction’s completion.

“This pier can now support the finest carrier in the world,” said Commander, Naval Forces Japan commanding officer Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, gesturing to the USS Kitty Hawk already moored there. “The only better sight picture will be in 2008 when the USS George Washington will be sitting in the same spot.”

The first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to call Berth 12 home — the USS Midway in 1973 — signified a strengthening commitment to Japan, Kelly said. But when the USS Independence arrived in 1991 to replace the Midway, the pier was almost 70 years old and could “no longer support” a carrier, he said.

Ships began having trouble mooring and doing maintenance work and replenishment, he said.

Negotiations began and a survey was conducted in 1993. Construction began in 1999 as a Japanese Facilities Improvement Project in a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Berth 12 was extended 450 feet, the deck was refurbished, and two huge port cranes were installed, along with utility substations and support facilities.

Kitty Hawk spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Terrence Dudley called the new digs “exceptional.” The carrier pulled in to Berth 12 on May 25 after a few days of sea trials, he said.

“We’re very impressed with the new facilities there and are very pleased to have had the opportunity to practice pulling in and departing from our new home,” Dudley said.

Berth 12 by the numbers450: Number of feet the pier is extended.

20,000: Cubic meters (about 26,159 cubic yards) of concrete needed for the extension.

4,000: Concrete delivery truckloads.

2,579: Work days needed to finish the project.

1,176,000: The man hours it took to complete the job.

12.8 billion yen: About $114 million, the total construction cost.

1993: The year the survey was started.

1999: Construction starts.

2006: The project completion.

2008: The year the USS George Washington is to make the berth its home.

0: Accidents or safety mishaps so far.

The birth of Berth 12

Golden scissors snipped the opening ribbon just Tuesday but Yokosuka’s Berth 12 actually is more than 90 years old, with a history as varied as the ships moored to it:

Built by the Japanese Imperial Navy in 1920, the pier was home to Japanese warships for 25 years.

The USS Midway made Berth 12 its home when it arrived in 1973.

When Midway’s replacement — the USS Independence — arrived in 1991, the pier could “no longer support the ship,” according to Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, Commander, Naval Forces Japan.

Negotiations between the U.S. and Japan began in 1993 to upgrade the pier. Construction began in 1999 under the Japan Facilities Improvement Program.

The pier was extended 450 feet, the deck refurbished, two huge port cranes — named after sumo wrestlers — were installed and utility substations and support facilities were built.

The USS Kitty Hawk tried out the new berth on May 25. It was pronounced “exceptional,” according to Kitty Hawk spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Terrence Dudley.

— Allison Batdorff

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