It appears that the old MARAD mothball fleet otherwise known as the Suisun Bay Ghost Fleet near
Benicia California may soon be drastically shrinking, with many old warships and auxiliary vessels heading to scrappers in . Many of the ships in the mothball fleet have significant historical value, including several Victory ships and the battleship USS Iowa. Nevertheless, most bay area and California state politicians want the ships out of Suisun Bay sooner rather than later. Texas
The San Francisco Chronicle brings us the whole story:
A fleet of old, rotting warships shedding toxic paint into the water near San Francisco Bay will be cleaned up and recycled under a new plan announced by federal officials Thursday.
Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari said the government has already awarded contracts to dispose of two World War II-era cargo ships from the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet.
The group of more than 70 mostly obsolete vessels in
has been at the center of a nearly three-year deadlock between state water regulators and the federal government, which manages the fleet. Suisun Bay
Porcari said the ships will be cleaned in dry-dock — not in the bay — alleviating state officials’ concerns about additional water pollution.
“This is definitely big,” said Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. “This is the start.”
A congressional order set a 2006 deadline to scrap more than 50 ships in the fleet, but a regulatory quagmire has kept them in place.
A lack of disposal operations on the West Coast means the ships must be towed to
to be broken apart. Under federal law, the ships must be cleaned of invasive species clinging to their hulls before they can enter the ocean. Texas
Putting the ships in dry-dock in
lifts worries about the cleanup causing further pollution, Wolfe said. But he said the state would continue to press its suit until a settlement or court order puts legal force behind the government’s commitment to get rid of all ships awaiting disposal. San Francisco
Environmentalists have long criticized the U.S. Maritime Administration for the delays in removing the ships. They said the government must act aggressively to get rid of the rest.
“MARAD has not yet committed to a concrete and enforceable timetable for cleaning and removing the remaining ships,” said Michael Wall, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Of the 57 ships slated for the scrap heap, Porcari said the 25 most decrepit vessels would be disposed first. The process would take several years owing to the limited space in dry-dock facilities, he said.
Aerial shot of the Suisun Bay Mothball Fleet (Telstar Logistics/Flickr)
When steel prices were high, recyclers would pay for the rights to dispose of the ships in exchange for the steel they contain. In today’s economy, the government is paying more than $2 million to a
, company to dismantle them. Brownsville, Texas
The dry-docking will cost the government another $500,000 per ship.
“It is worth it in environmental terms to do it the right way,” Porcari said.
The country’s three major reserve fleets, including one in
Beaumont, Texas, and another near , were once maintained to return to active duty in case of war or disaster. Over time, many ships fell into disrepair and became a financial and environmental burden. Newport News, Va.
, the aging hulks tied together in rows have become a landmark visible from a heavily traveled commuter bridge. They are known together as the “ghost fleet” or the “mothball fleet.” Suisun Bay
The first two ships slated for dry-docking in coming months are the Earlham Victory and the Pan American Victory, built in nearby
in 1945. The Victory ships mainly transported cargo and troops during World War II. Richmond
Talks are under way with a nonprofit group to turn the fleet’s best known member, the battleship USS Iowa, into a museum, Porcari said.
Source: The Maritime Blog. 22 October 2009