The USS Little Rock, a Navy littoral combat ship commissioned in late December, finally left the port of Montreal this weekend, more than three months after docking there for a short stop on its maiden voyage.
The Little Rock was commissioned in Buffalo, New York, on December 16, but its journey to Mayport Naval Station in northeast Florida was delayed when the ship became stuck in Montreal a few days after Christmas. Unusually cold temperatures, icy conditions, and a shortage of tugboats to guide it out of port all contributed to the Little Rock staying in Canada.
The Navy said in January that the Little Rock would remain in Montreal “until wintry weather conditions improve and the ship is able to safely transit through the St. Lawrence Seaway.”
That stay lasted until 6:15 Saturday morning, port officials told the CBC. U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson confirmed the departure. “Keeping the ship in Montreal until weather conditions improved ensured the safety of the ship and crew,” Hillson told Business Insider.
The Little Rock is expected to reach Florida later in April, making several stops along the way.
The Blue crew of the freedom variant littoral combat ship USS Little Rock (LCS 9) man the rails during the ship's commissioning ceremony Dec. 16, 2017 in Buffalo, N.Y. Little Rock is the fifth freedom-variant LCS to join the fleet.U.S. Navy/Lockheed Martin
The decision to keep the ship at Montreal was made on January 19. Hillson told Business Insider at the time that the Little Rock's crew was carrying out routine repair work and focusing “on training, readiness, and certifications.”
The ship was outfitted with temporary heaters and 16 de-icers to prevent ice accumulation on the hull and its roughly 170-person crew given cold-weather clothing in response to the delay, according to the CBC.
“We greatly appreciate the support and hospitality of the city of Montreal, the Montreal Port Authority and the Canadian Coast Guard,” the Little Rock's commanding officer, Cmdr. Todd Peters, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity to further enhance our strong partnerships.”
Canadians living near the port complained about constant noise coming from the ship's generators. The Port of Montreal dimmed lights illuminating the ship and adjustments were made to the soundproofing around the Little Rock's generators.
The Little Rock was the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to join the Navy. It is 389 feet long with a draft of 13.5 feet, according to the Navy. It has a top speed of over 45 knots and displaces about 3,400 tons fully loaded. The ship is scheduled for more training and combat-systems testing in 2018, its commander said in late December.
Littoral combat ships are designed to operate near shore, and their modular design is meant to enable them to perform a variety of surface missions, mainly against small, fast attack craft as well as anti-mine and anti-submarine missions.
The LCS program has struggled with accidents and been criticized for cost overruns. The Navy said in January that LCS mission modules, designed to allow the ships to perform their three mission types, will enter service in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
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