Artificial Reefing Authorities

The U.S. Maritime Administration Artificial Reef Program was established in 1972 under Public Law 92-402 authorizing the Secretary of Commerce to transfer obsolete Liberty ships in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) to States filing the appropriate application.  The law provided that the transfer was at “at no cost to the federal government” and the State take custody in the “as is, where is” condition. The Law was amended in 1984 by Public Law 98-623 to include any National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) ship that is designated for recycling.  The Law was amended further in 2004 by Public Law 108-136 to allow the Maritime Administration to accept applications for artificial reefing projects from States, U.S. territories and possessions and from foreign governments.

Benefits of an Artificial Reef

  1. Promoting marine life in areas of generally featureless bottom.
  2. Improves hydrodynamics for surfing or to control beach erosion.
  3. Provides hard surfaces to which algae and invertebrates such as barnacles, corals, and oysters attach.
  4. Provides intricate structure and food for assemblages of fish.

Environmental Concerns

In May 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a guidance document entitled “National Guidance:  Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels Intended to Create Artificial Reefs” (EPA842-B-06-002).  The best management practices (BMP’s) guidance offers a consistent, national approach for preparing obsolete and decommissioned military and commercial vessels for use as artificial reefs.  The goal of the BMP guidance document is to promote consistent use of such practices nationwide, to provide a basis for estimating the costs associated with the preparation of vessels for use as artificial reefs, to ensure that vessels sunk as artificial reefs will be prepared using environmentally sound practices and to include measures that will enhance the utility of the Artificial Reefing Program of the Maritime Administration as an option for the disposal of obsolete vessels.  

Vessel Availability

The Maritime Administration does not target or set aside NDRF vessels for reefing but relies on the applicant to select vessels of interest.  Since not all vessels are good reefing candidates due to the material condition of the vessel it is important the applicant and the Maritime Administration work closely during the selection process to ensure an appropriate vessel is chosen for the specific reefing project. 

Who is eligible to apply?

Domestic artificial reefing applications for obsolete Maritime Administration NDRF vessels must be submitted through the individual State, U.S. territories or possession’s artificial reefing coordinator where the vessel will be reefed.  Foreign artificial reefing applications must be submitted by the cognizant government authority for artificial reefing actions.    

Point of Contact

Mr. Dana Austin  E-mail:Dana.Austin@dot.gov  Tele: (202) 366-3523

To help us better serve you, please provide your name and organization contact information when sending us an email 

Maritime Security
Voluntary Tanker Agreement
Ship Operations Cooperative Program
Maritime Research & Development
Inland Container on Barge
Intermodal Access to U.S. Ports and Marine Terminals