The merchant ship Lane Victory, which was at the root of a ruckus at the Port of Los Angeles last week when a group of merchant seamen refused to move it from its berth, will be relocated today under a last-minute compromise agreement between the seamen and the Los Angeles Harbor Department.
The 455-foot-long, 7,000-ton ship will be moved from Berth 55 to nearby Berth 52, where port officials will permit it to remain while the seamen attempt to renovate the vessel and convert it into a floating museum and memorial.
"We've kind of cleared the air a little bit," said Joseph Vernick, president of the Long Beach-based U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans World War II. "They're going to work with us, and we'll work with them . . . ."
Two weeks ago, Vernick's group defied port officials and arranged for its ship, which had been moth-balled for two decades until the federal government gave it to the veterans last year, to be towed from San Francisco to Los Angeles Harbor, knowing that there was no place to berth it.
Harbor officials told the seamen they could dock it at Berth 55 for a week. But when the week was up June 19, the seamen refused to leave.
The seaman held a press conference on board the Lane Victory, declared themselves "orphans" and demanded--as they have repeatedly done--that port officials give them Berth 87, near the Los Angeles maritime museum and a statue that honors merchant seamen, as a permanent home for their vessel.
Instead, port officials gave the seamen another week at Berth 55 and late Friday, offered them Berth 52 for as long as they need it to do the renovation work.
Issue Still Unsettled
The matter of a permanent berth has not yet been settled, port spokeswoman Julia Nagano said. Harbor officials have thus far refused the seamen's requests for Berth 87, which they said must remain open for container cargo ships. Nagano said Monday that the veterans' demand for Berth 87 "was absolutely out of the question, and it still is."
For now, Vernick said, his group can live with the situation.
"For the time being, they're adamant about 87, and we've acquiesced," he said. "Right now, we have a berth, and I'm satisfied. At least we don't have to worry about having the sword of Damocles hanging over our head."