The U.S. Transportation Department said it's scrapping obsolete ships in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in California at a faster than anticipated pace.
In 2010, the Maritime Administration said it would remove 28 ships from the fleet by Sept. 30, 2012. To date, 36 ships have been removed, and three more vessels are scheduled for removal by the end of the year.
“Three years ago, the Department of Transportation promised to get rid of the ships that posed a threat to the environment, and I am proud to announce today that we are delivering on that promise,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Removing these vessels restores the beauty of the bay and supports area jobs connected with the removal and recycling of the ships.”
In October 2009, MarAd developed a plan that allowed it to begin awarding contracts to prioritize removing the most hazardous ships from the bay and improve cleaning methods for the rest. Out of an original fleet of 57 ships, 21 now remain, and MarAd said all will be removed by Sept. 30, 2017. In recent years, thanks to a strong scrap steel market, MarAd has sold 15 vessels for recycling. As required by the National Maritime Heritage Act, 25 percent of the profit from those transactions is distributed to maritime academies around the country.
The Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet is one of three "ghost fleets" in the nation. The others are the James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia and the Beaumont Reserve Fleet in Texas. All three anchorages are maintained by MarAd for national defense and national emergency purposes. When vessels are no longer useful, MarAd disposes them.
In addition to the vessels removed from Suisun Bay, 11 ships have been taken out of the Beaumont and James River fleets since October 2009. - Chris Dupin