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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An iconic piece of history that rests in the Cape Fear River is getting a little TLC, but it needs even more.

Staff at the Battleship North Carolina says the state’s World War II memorial needs repairs, and they know just the right technology for the job.

You won’t see this ship hit the open seas any time soon, but the Battleship North Carolina will get quite the facelift after sitting in brackish water for decades.

“This ship, just like any other ship or boat in this type of environment, needs constant repair and maintenance,” Battleship assistant director Chris Vargo said.

Normally ships like this are meant to be taken out of the water every few years for inspection, but the Battleship has not been taken out of the water since the 1940s.

“The bottom line is (the hull is) thinning,” Vargo said. “It’s steel in a saltwater environment or in a brackish water environment, and it’s deteriorating. We recently repaired areas of the starboard bow, but we know that different areas throughout the hull are in similar shape, and we need to get to them and repair them.”

With the hull partially submerged and trips to a dry dock too costly, Vargo says it’s difficult to make these repairs. The solution is building a permanent cofferdam around the ship to let crews remove water and sediment and get to work to preserve this piece of history.

“If you look at the purpose of the North Carolina as a memorial to those who fought and died in World War II, I think that explains itself,” Vargo said. “It’s vital, and we need to keep it here, and what we plan to do will ensure that happens.”

Vargo estimates building a permanent cofferdam will cost about $15 million. Until they take a look underwater, though, they wont know for sure. The Battleship is also trying to figure out how to pay for the work.

Comment on this Story

  • Guesttoo

    The bottom is not gone. When there is an extremely high tide on the Cape Fear, the ship will actually float. Probably leaks like sieve but, nonetheless, it does float.

    I’d love to see this mighty ship berthed 90 degrees from it’s current position. It would have a lot more visual impact that way.

  • renoGuest

    I am sure the bottom of this boat has been gone for over 20 years. It seems it is most likely to just collapse if they were to try to move it sides and all. I would think the best thing to do would be to pour a concrete box around the boat and encapsulate the boat in the concrete.make a memorial above the waterline and bury the rest in solid concrete.

  • A Jonas

    Thanks for playing. The big bitch can still make it to blue water….
    The battle ship height is 120 feet from water line to top of tower.
    The Cape Fear Bridge raises to a maximum height of 130 feet.

    Sounds like you hate the battleship! Might cost you an extra 5 to 10 bucks a year to save and maintain something with far more importance than anything you’ve ever accomplished.

  • Guest CommonTater

    “I doubt that it would cost more than $1M each time.”

    is based on what? Are you an expert at moving ships? That’s not to disagree with you but speculation will not pay for the move. If you have a plan you need to back it up with hard numbers and put forth your idea…..

  • Brian

    $15M is quite a lot of money to be spending on construction. Let’s look at the cost of moving the ship to a dry dock on the river every 5 years for the bottom to be washed and painted. I doubt that it would cost more than $1M each time. $15M would cover 75 years of maintenance, and that’s not even counting interest costs on the $15M that would need to be borrowed for the cofferdam. Sounds like someone with a financial interest in marine construction is behind this push.

  • Vog46

    On the river?
    Capable of handling a ship 728 ft long with a beam of 108 ft?



  • Mudwrap

    Closest dry dock capable of handling the battleship is in Norfolk, VA. The ship would have to be released from the sediment. The superstructure is taller than the Cape Fear River Bridge fully raised, so part of the super structure would have to be disassembled. When the ship was first placed, the theory was the hull would not deteriorate if surrounded by river mud. Only later was it learned otherwise.

  • Guest Reply

    “The Battleship is also trying to figure out how to pay for the work.”

    WWAY…what is the average annual income of this Battleship per year for admission fees…opposed to up keep/salaries/etc.? There’s a news flash for you, with some homework added on. It’s your assignment story for the day.

    1. Hands off our tax dollars to “City Council/County Managers” on this one.
    2. Raise the tour admission fees to cover the cost. (Bingo)
    3. How can you have an exhibit such as this historic Battleship, knowing the reaction of saltwater vs. steel in time/no plans of a projected maintenance cost adjustment(s) for the elements associated with Mother Nature…past tense and future? Or did it just Pop Up?

    Just remove any ides of a tax increase away from the upcoming “Drawing Board”. (Oooops…too late…it was already discussed…I’m sure) :-(
    PS: Don’t mean to sound off like an A*Hole…but we all know that tax increases are the menu of the day in problem solving…and citizens here are simply “Taxed to Death”!!
    Stay Tuned!

  • Vog46

    One thing I’ve considered about the Battleship is that it should – SHOULD – be moved and tied up to the River walk near the Convention Center. I believe this would cause a huge influx of foot traffic down town.

    Now that we have to do something to the BB-55’s hull, now is the time to test my theory. Dredge a mooring on the ILM side, move the ship and build the cofferdam where the original battleship mooring is. My guess is that it would work so well that the cofferdam would only be needed when the hull needed painting, and the battleship could stay on the ILM side of the river.

    It’s an interesting idea. If tourism at the ship increased I would suggest changing the CC into a Maritime Museum – with more ships, planes and displays.

    Ah to dream…….



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