Cleaning up the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet

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“The Obama Administration is making good on its commitment to clean up the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet,” said Secretary LaHood. “We are working to bring the fleet in line with our national goals for a safe and clean environment.”

What Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet is: The Suisun Bay facility, located in Benicia, California, is one of three National Defense Reserve Fleet sites operated by the Maritime Administration, and, at the time of the announcement, there were 57 obsolete ships in the facility awaiting disposal. They posed possible environmental threats because of exfoliating paint, and because some of them contain petroleum products and other polluting substances. While the best way to remediate the situation is to remove the ships, no ships had left Suisun Bay since November of 2006.

What's Needed: Since there are currently no qualified ship recycling facilities on the Pacific Coast of the United States, and the ships cannot be sent overseas for recycling, contracts for recycling are awarded to qualified firms on the Gulf Coast and East Coast of the United States, so ships must be towed through the Panama Canal and into other ecosystems. To prevent the spread of invasive species, the ships are cleaned at a San Francisco Bay area shipyard, and then towed out of the area.

This cleaning effort in dry dock includes removal of loose paint on the hull and superstructure to minimize the potential of exfoliating paint entering the marine environment. The Maritime Administration is also commencing an aggressive ship cleaning effort to pick up, remove, and properly dispose of exfoliated paint on the SBRF ships while these await recycling actions. Additionally, depending upon resource contraints, SBRF ships will be rotated to dry dock for a more complete exfoliated paint removal process of exfoliated paint and then returned to the SBRF until recycling options are available.

Our Progress So Far: Schedules agreed to in a settlement of litigation called for ten ships to be removed by Oct. 1, but to date with the departure of the Taluga on July 26, the Maritime Administration has reached the target two months early. To track the progress of the ships on their journey to Brownsville, Texas, click on this Vessel Towing Report.

News Release:  Federal Suisun Bay Cleanup Ahead of Schedule

News Release:  DOT Deputy Secretary John D. Porcari Announces Plan to Clean Up Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet

National Defense Reserve Fleet :  This page has information about all three National Defense Reserve Fleet sites, of which Suisun Bay is one, as well as the history and the purpose of the program and the fleet.

Ship Disposal Main Page: This page has links to policy papers on ship disposal, environmental guidelines for the management of the fleet, and a complete inventory of each fleet, updated every month.

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