USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams Suffers Soft Grounding Off Gabon

May 10, 2024 4:10 PM
USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4) is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations on May 5, 2024. US Navy Photo

The expeditionary sea base USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB-4) grounded off the western coast of Africa on Thursday, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa confirmed to USNI News on Friday.

Williams “ran aground May 9, 2025, around 1p.m. [GMT], shortly after leaving port from a routine port visit to Libreville, Gabon. The ship broke free about 5p.m. [GMT] at high tide. No injuries or major damage were reported from the grounding,” reads the statement from NAVEUR.

As of Friday afternoon, the ESB was operating in the Gabon estuary just south of Libreville, according to AIS data.

The Navy will undertake an additional inspection of the damage in conjunction with an investigation into the soft grounding, a Navy spokesperson told USNI News. As of Friday, no disciplinary action has been taken related to the grounding, USNI News understands.

The ESB was in port in Gabon for the opening of the Obangame Express 2024 exercise series off the coast of Africa. The annual exercise includes more than 30 countries and focuses on maritime domain awareness and maritime law enforcement training like visit, board, search and seizure exercises.

Williams is stationed at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greecee. The hull is based on an Alaska-class oil tanker and one of three forward-deployed sea bases.

“The ship is capable of conducting expeditionary missions, counter piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. The ship operates with blue and gold crews, allowing it to remain continually deployed throughout AFRICOM,” reads a statement from NAVEUR.

The following is the complete statement from NAVEUR.

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), assigned to U.S. 6th Fleet on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations, ran aground May 9, 2025, around 1300Z, shortly after leaving port from a routine port visit to Libreville, Gabon. The ship broke free about 1700Z at high tide. No injuries or major damage were reported from the grounding. We cannot provide further details at this time as the incident is currently under investigation.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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