Toxic Trade News / 30 May 2006
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Retired Navy fleet contains 67 more ships
by Coos Bay World
  Not all rusting military ships head to recycling yards. Some sink into watery graves, like the USS Oriskany, a decommissioned aircraft carrier. The U.S. Navy sank the Korean War-era ship 24 miles off Pensacola, Fla., on May 17, forming the world's largest man-made reef. The 888-foot long ship slipped under the surface in 37 minutes as part of a project to help Florida boost tourism and create marine habitat. The reefing program is not without controversy, with critics arguing it's too expensive and that no ship can be stripped totally bare of toxic materials. The project cost $27 million as compared to a government estimate of $24 million to have recycled the ship, according to news reports. - AP  
30 May 2006 – The U.S. Maritime Administration is not the only federal agency with mothballed ships. The U.S. Navy has them, too. MARAD manages the largest fleet of inactive military and civilian service vessels. The Navy, however, manages its own obsolete vessels separately from MARAD. The following are some basics about the Navy program as answered by Pat Dolan, the deputy director of NAVSEA Office of Corporate Communication.

Question: Where are the Navy's inactive ships and how many are there?

Answer: The Navy's inventory of inactive conventionally-powered ships numbers 67 ships, 17 of which are held as retention assets for potential future reactivation and the remainder are pending disposal by either foreign military sale transfer, ship donation as a museum or memorial, domestic ship dismantling, deep water sinking as part of a Navy training exercise, or sinking as an artificial reef for fisheries enhancement. The majority of these ships are stored at Navy inactive ship maintenance facilities in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Bremerton, Wash.; and Philadelphia. Additionally, seven ships are stored at the Maritime Administration's Suisun Bay National Defense Reserve Fleet in Benecia, Calif., three ships at MARAD's Reserve Fleet in Beaumont, Texas, four ships in Norfolk, Va., and two ships in Newport, R.I.

Question: Is the Navy dismantling any of its own vessels?

Answer: The Navy contracts with private companies in the U.S. to dismantle its conventionally-powered warships. This includes Metro Machine Corp in Philadelphia, ESCO Marine Inc. in Brownsville and International Shipbreaking Ltd. in Brownsville.

Question: Metro Machine Corp. is closing its ship recycling operations. How would that affect the Navy's efforts to get rid of its obsolete vessels?

Answer: The Navy has two additional contractors doing ship dismantlement in Texas. We do not believe their will be an impact on our scrapping.

Question: Does the Navy check for hull structural integrity before vessels are towed? How many opinions are sought? What if a consultant recommends against a tow for vessels destined for scrapping?

Answer: The Navy inspects its ships in inventory for hull integrity at least annually. Any Navy inactive ship to be towed is prepared in accordance with the Navy Tow Manual and the tow preparations are independently inspected by Navy tow engineers. Most of the Navy's inactive ships were removed from service in the 1990s and 2000s, such that the hulls remain in good condition. The Navy has not experienced a situation where a pre-tow inspection has recommended against towing of a ship contracted for dismantling.

Question: Does the Navy remove residual fuels or other hazardous materials from those vessels in the inactive fleet?

Answer: Navy ships are defueled upon decommissioning and towed to the inactive ship maintenance facility. Residual fuels remain in tanks of ships in the inactive ship inventory, except those that are destined for use in deep water sink exercises and use as artificial reefs. The tanks and piping of those ships tanks are cleaned so that the ships are essentially petroleum free.

For ships contracted for dismantling, residual fuels will remain in tanks for the tow to the scrap yard. Residual fuels is defined as small quantities in tank bottoms that are below the low suction pipes.

Navy ships constructed through the 1960s will have hazardous materials that are part of the structure of a ship. This includes lead-based paint, asbestos containing thermal insulation that is totally enclosed or encapsulated, mercury containing instruments, and PCB containing totally enclosed transformers and capacitors and in some solid shipboard materials.

Question: How much has Congress appropriated over the past five years for ship scrapping for the agency? Explain whether it's been enough for the agency to meet its ship recycling needs.

Answer: Over the past five years, the Navy has budgeted approximately $12 million per year for conventionally powered ship disposal.

As noted above, ship dismantling is only one method the Navy utilizes to reduce its inventory of inactive ships. Over the past five years, the Navy's ship disposal program has successfully reduced the inventory of inactive ships from 117 to a current inventory of 67 ships. This was accomplished in spite of a number of ship decommissionings during this period that added to the inactive ship inventory.

Question: What happened to the joint venture ship dismantling partnership between VSE and EarthTech and the Navy at Hunter's Point near San Francisco? What years was it in operation?

Answer: Ship Dismantling and Recycling, a joint venture of VSE Corp and EarthTech, closed their Hunters Point, San Francisco, ship-dismantling facility in December 2001 after successfully scrapping four Navy warships between January 2000 and September 2001. SDR closed this facility because there were not a sufficient number of ships being contracted for dismantling for the company to remain economically viable. In 2001, the Navy had ship dismantling contracts with four domestic companies, including SDR. SDR completed the dismantling of its four ships in a time-efficient manner and in accordance with all environmental and occupational safety laws and regulations, however, the company could not economically sustain the facility with no additional workload. As the Navy uses competition between ship dismantling companies to ensure that awards are made on a best-value basis, the company recognized that there might be an extended period before the next award, since the company had no other customers, other than Navy, for its ship dismantling services.

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