24 July 2014

No small scraps: Brownsville emerging as shipbreaking capital

The modernization of the U.S. Navy’s military ship fleet is proving lucrative for South Texas shipbreaking operations.

Navy officials recently awarded the nation’s largest shipbreaking contract to a Brownsville company. International Shipbreaking Ltd. has been commissioned to dismantle the USS Constellation, a Kitty Hawk “supercarrier” class aircraft carrier. The 1,100-foot, 62,000-ton vessel is scheduled to begin its final journey from Washington state to Brownsville at the end of this month.

The trip is expected to take more than three months, and Connie, as she’s known, should arrive at the Port of Brownsville near year’s end.

This is the third big military ship-breaking contract to come to the port this year. The USS Forrestal, the U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier, arrived in Brownsville in February and is being dismantled by All Star Metals. The USS Saratoga, a Lexington-class aircraft carrier, should arrive soon, and ESCO Marine will begin tearing that one apart.

Because of its size and the time and cost involved in bringing the Constellation to Brownsville — it will be towed from the northwest U.S. coast around the southern tip of South America — the Navy contract pays International Shipbreaking $3,000. Most other jobs, including the other two at the Brownsville port, sell the ships to the dismantlers for one cent; the money is made selling the many tons of scrap metal once they’re broken apart.

Apparently, past concerns that allowing one or more new shipbreaking companies to move into South Texas might hurt those already here don’t seem to have proven true. If anything, the expansion has had the opposite effect by establishing the Port of Brownsville as a recognizable center of dismantling operations.

It’s now being called the shipbreaking capital of the United States.

In addition, it also has other salvage operations. Port Director Eddie Campirano has said such companies pay more than $500,000 annually in leases alone.

Those looking for salvage business, in addition to our Defense Department, could well look first to South Texas, knowing that several businesses here can do the work.

With a local economy that is dominated by retail and agriculture, any industrial market, including ship-breaking and salvage, adds diversity that can help the area withstand low periods in one or more areas of the economy.

Such diversity also creates greater job opportunities for Rio Grande Valley residents.

We hope — and believe — that the attention our shipbreakers are drawing to the area also attracts other industrial operations.

Source: the monitor. 24 July 2014

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