29 March 2011

Vallejo's Mare Island shipyard swarms with activity:

From the highest point on the SS President, moored inside Mare Island's Dry Dock 2, a shipyard swarming with activity unfolds between recent rain showers.

The company that has reopened two of the former naval base's dry docks in recent months has brought its full-time employee roster up to 60, with an estimated half residing in Vallejo. Those 60 are about half way to Allied Defense Recycling's employee goal for its first year of business.

Directly in front of the President sits the SS Solon Turman, launched from San Francisco as a cargo ship in the 1960s and retired to the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet by 1979. It is Allied's first dismantling contract with Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet keepers, the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Off to the left, the shipyard has been playing temporary host to the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, a World War II liberty "living" museum ship normally moored at San Francisco's Pier 45. Neighboring Mare Island industrial business Copper Crane and Rigging was performing contract work on the O'Brien and needed a mooring space, Allied business operations manager Jay Anast said last week.

From atop the President, Anast pointed to the buzzing ship-breaking work, saying that the first 1,000 pounds of metal from that ship have been committed to be shipped to Korea for sale. The ship is about 17,000 tons in total, he said. Allied is trucking the iron out to barges right now, Anast said. Although the company has toyed with shipping out its metal by local rail, Anast said the current truck-to-barge setup works best with sending the material to Korea.

The Solon Turman already has pieces sliced neatly out of its bow and stern, with more being removed daily. Cranes on the site move back and forth, carrying the chunks of ship to nearby ground for further dismantling.

Anast said he is awaiting word on bids for four ship-dismantling contracts (for the USS Clamp, SS Sagamore, USS Bolster and Reclaimer) put out to bid by the Maritime Administration in December. Also, another three ship-dismantling contracts, for the USS Point Defiance, USS Sperry and USS Thomaston, were announced earlier this month. In particular, Anast said, the Sperry should "naturally" come to Mare Island for its last days, as the submarine tender was originally launched from the shipyard in 1941.

One other Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet dismantling contract was recently awarded, for the SS Lincoln. Anast said Allied initially bid on the Lincoln's cleaning, but withdrew the offer when the company was informed the ship would need to be prioritized over the SS President. Winning the contract would have meant flooding Dry Dock 2 multiple times, Anast said. The company was temporarily prohibited from doing that by environmental agencies, as it works at installing new environmental impact mitigation measures, he said.

According to documents posted online by the Maritime Administration, the Lincoln will be cleaned in San Francisco by the BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair for $571,196, and sold to Texas-based All Star Metals for $675,277. Maritime Administration spokeswoman Kim Riddle said Friday that ships in the three reserve fleets nationwide are always offered for sale prior to the government agency offering to subsidize the dismantling.

Source: Times-Herald, Vallejo. By Jessica A. York.  28 March 2011

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