After seven months, U.S. aircraft carriers have resumed making port calls in Oman, U.S. 5th Fleet officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.
This week, USS Nimitz (CVN-68) pulled into Duqm, Oman for a logistics stopover and limited liberty stop – the first for a carrier since February.
“Nimitz is conducting a scheduled port visit in support of logistics and maintenance. The port visit also provides an opportunity for the crew to rest and reset after an extended period at sea,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told USNI News.
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was the last carrier to visit the port from Feb. 26 to 29. Two weeks later the Navy announced it would suspend “quality of life” port visits due to fears of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The crew of Truman’s relief, USS Eisenhower (CVN-69), spent nearly seven months at sea without a port call.
In renewing the port visits, the Navy has worked with the Omani government to create an environment that corresponds to the Centers for Disease Control and Defense Department standards.
“We are taking proactive and comprehensive measures to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our sailors and Marines,” Rebarich said.
“Personnel will be restricted to a cordoned area and non-ship’s personnel are not permitted within the area when crew is present.”
The U.S. and the government in Oman reached an agreement in 2019 to allow carriers to regularly access the port. Carriers had visited the port as early as 2014. Duqm, on Oman’s East coast, gives the Navy a second place to berth a carrier in U.S. 5th Fleet after the service’s base in Bahrain. Though the facilities aren’t as extensive as those in Bahrain, the port in Duqm is outside the Persian Gulf and doesn’t risk a carrier transiting the Strait of Hormuz past Iranian forces.
U.S. 5th Fleet isn’t using the same “safe haven” construct the Navy has employed in the Pacific and in the Atlantic. For example, in Guam, sailors have limited access to base facilities and a beach on the naval base.
Prior to the pandemic, the liberty options for sailors in Oman were mostly confined to the pier with limited options for sailors to travel into the surrounding town.
Nimitz has been operating just outside the Persian Gulf since late July as part of a deployment that began on June 8 from San Diego, Calif. The bulk of the 8,000 sailors of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing 17 have been in an isolation period since early April to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on the carrier.