Decision on Ghost Fleet

Discussion in 'Modern' started by comiso90, Apr 2, 2010.

  1. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Suisun Bay's ghost fleet may finally R.I.P.

    he federal government and environmental groups reached an agreement Wednesday that will mean the end of the ghost fleet of retired ships in Suisun Bay.

    The vessels were once part of a mighty reserve fleet of warships and freighters, but time and neglect has turned them into what one environmental advocate called "a floating toxic waste dump."

    Only 52 ships remain of a fleet that once was as big as a good-size Navy, and these rusting old vessels will be removed and cleaned up for an ocean voyage to Texas, where they will be scrapped. The fleet will be reduced gradually, with 25 ships in the worst condition taken out within two years and the remainder by fall 2017. The settlement, which must be approved by a federal court in Sacramento, ends a long dispute over the ships, which have been a fixture in the bay just east of Benicia for generations.

    After World War II, there were thousands of surplus ships, and, in 1946, the Maritime Administration began keeping the best of them in reserve. At one time, more than 350 ships were in the fleet, including cruisers, destroyers, supply ships, transports and tankers. Many of them were broken out for service in the Korean and Vietnam wars, but the rest stayed in Suisun Bay and gradually became neglected and obsolete - a fleet of ghosts tied up in rows, waiting for a call to duty that never came.
    Rust and paint

    They sat waiting in some cases for more than 30 years; the decks rusted and the ships' coats of lead-based paint peeled and fell into the bay. Environmental groups and the state Regional Water Quality Control Board pressured the Maritime Administration to do something, to no avail.

    The Maritime Administration relented and last year conducted a survey, which found that more than 20 tons of toxic material from the ships had gotten into Suisun Bay, which is a critical environmental area for fish and wildlife, including the endangered chinook salmon. There are no current plans to clean up the material.

    "They were a festering sore in San Francisco Bay," said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who tried to get the pollution stopped for years. "We had people (in the Bush administration) who said nothing could be done."

    In January, a federal judge in Sacramento ruled in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups that the ships were illegally polluting Suisun Bay.

    "They were a floating toxic waste dump," said Deb Self, executive director for the San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental group.
    To the scrap yard

    Under the settlement announced Wednesday, the Maritime Administration will not only get rid of the 52 old ships over time, but will clean the surfaces of the remaining ships every 90 days until they're removed to keep paint from dropping in the water, inspect the ships monthly and collect runoff samples for testing.

    Once ships are removed from the fleet, they will be towed to the BAE Systems San Francisco shipyard at the foot of Potrero Hill to be cleaned of toxic paint and marine growth. They then will be towed to a facility in Brownsville, Texas, via the Panama Canal, to be scrapped. David Matsuda, the head of the U.S. Maritime Administration, said he did not know how much the program would cost.

    "It depends," he said, "on the scrap metal market."
    Previous withdrawals

    Obsolete ships have been sent to the scrap yard over the years. Four old ships, including two World War II vintage Victory ships, have been taken out of the reserve fleet since last fall. The most recent one was the 66-year-old tanker Mission Santa Ynez, towed out Wednesday and taken to the San Francisco yard.

    The Mission Santa Ynez, launched at the Marinship yard in Sausalito in 1943, has been in the reserve fleet for 35 years.

    At present, the San Francisco facility is the only shipyard in the Bay Area capable of cleaning the ships.

    Fifteen ships, some of them owned by the U.S. Navy and not part of the ghost fleet, will be retained in the Suisun Bay anchorage.

    One of them is the battleship Iowa, a veteran of World War II. There have been proposals to dock the ship as a museum in San Francisco, but the idea was turned down by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Other plans to dock the ship in Stockton or Vallejo have come to nothing.
    Historic ships of the ghost fleet

    Several historic vessels are among the ships anchored now or in the past at Suisun Bay.

    The battleship Iowa: The biggest and most famous ship of the fleet served in World War II and the Korean War. The Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Cairo and Tehran conferences in 1943. The ship was recommissioned in 1984 but was laid up again in 1990 after an explosion in a turret that killed 47 sailors. The Iowa will be retained at Suisun Bay pending disposition as a museum ship.

    The General Pope and the General Patrick: These two World War II transports will be scrapped. Both carried troops in World War II and the Korean War.

    The Victory ships: They were the backbone of the reserve fleet. They were cargo ships that were invaluable in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The Winthrop Victory was towed to sea earlier this year and is on its way to the scrap yard.

    Museum ships: Three reserve fleet ships have been given a new life as museum ships. The oldest is the 1943 vintage Jeremiah O'Brien, one of two remaining World War II Liberty Ships. The O'Brien is in operating condition and is berthed at Fisherman's Wharf. The World War II-era Lane Victory operates out of Los Angeles, and the Red Oak Victory is undergoing restoration in Richmond.

    The Mission Santa Ynez: This tanker left the reserve fleet Wednesday to be scrapped. It was the last surviving vessel built at the Marinship yard in Sausalito. It was launched in December 1943, and the ship's sponsor was Mrs. Ralph Davies, for whom the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco was named.

    E-mail Carl Nolte at [email protected].

    This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

    Read more: Suisun Bay's ghost fleet may finally R.I.P.

    [​IMG]

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  2. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    As a kid, I remember driving past the old mothballed ships just outside of Oakland, CA. Quite the site for a your man fascinated with Navy hardware. Row after row of ships roped together looking ready for battle in a young man's eyes.
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Wow, that must have been a site to see.
     
  4. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Me too Matt. I remember being frustrated that no one could tell me about them.
    It was like seeing a parade ground with a formation of soldiers at attention.
     
  5. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    I can relate. I can remember fishing in the James River north of Newport News and seeing the ghost fleet anchored there. It was eerie and cool at the same time. I always wanted to go explore them but that's not quite legal.
     
  6. Vic Balshaw

    Vic Balshaw Well-Known Member

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    Wow, a floating Arizona type graveyard, mist be an awesome sight, and being scrapped within country and not floated to the beaches of India.

    :hotsun: :hotsun:
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    San Diego in 1971 also had a nice mothball fleet.
     
  8. N4521U

    N4521U Well-Known Member

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  9. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Remember seein the Mothball Fleet once at Pearl Harbor. I can see the environmental side of things, but man, its hard to see such workhorses that served this country so well during WW2 be sent into exile and eventual scrapping.
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Very few WW2 era ships still exist. Most of the mothball fleet is made up of 1950's and 1960's vintage ships.
     
  11. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I remember the both the Mothball fleets in San Deigo and in San Francisco bay when I was a kid...I think I might even a picture or two that I took when I was a kid, of the Mothball fleet from the Benicia bridge (way back in the 70's) as we were crossing it.
     
  12. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    The mothball fleet in my neck of the woods was in the Hudson River, NY. From 1946 to 1971 there were something like 180 ships. Stored grain in them for many years.

    And BB-61 needs to be saved!

    TO
     
  13. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Agreed!

    All four need to be preserved for National pride and World Heritage
     
  14. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    That's cool. Only one I ever heard mention anything about them was a chief of mine, who referred to them as the "WW2 Mothball Fleet".
     
  15. otftch

    otftch Active Member

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    I remember seeing some at the Philly Navy Yard in the sixties. I even tried to get aboard them but got chased away.

    Ed
     
  16. r2800doublewasp

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    Just visited on the way back from trip last summer with my dad. Was very cool! I think I saw the Iowa among all the ships. Very sad!!
     
  17. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Sad that they had to rot away for decades, someone could have gotten some use out of them, seems like a waste of ships.
     
  18. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    I dunno. I think they were part of the Reserve Fleet to be activated in time of war. They were part of the resupply run to the orient in case of a major conflict. So not being used might actually be a good thing. Kinda like strategic weapon, nice to have them but you hope they never have to be used (albiet a lot different in terms of intensity).
     
  19. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    I know what you are saying Tim.
     
  20. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    they ought to clean them up and sink them in various places around the country as artificial reefs like they did with the spiegel grove and the oriskany. that way they can still be enjoyed and serve a national purpose. I dive and it is a thoroughly awesome experience to swin around the through treasures like this...i highly recommend it.
     
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