Nuclear Ship Savannah – What’s New

July 2011

It has been two years since we last updated the “What’s New” section of this website. The intervening period has seen a number of interesting events and accomplishments; all of which are described in detail in our annual reports to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Those reports can be accessed from our library page here.

Some of the more significant shipboard improvements have included completion of the full scope of the fire and smoke detection system; installation of emergency lighting fixtures throughout the ship; installation of a new shore power load center (switchboard) and connection box; and repairs to a deteriorated ventilation intake enclosure that was allowing water ingress into the ship. The HVAC retrofit of office spaces on the ship was completed shortly after the March 2009 update, and all contractor and MARAD staff migrated to onboard work spaces at the end of June 2009.

We’ve made substantial progress with the administrative license compliance programs, and our surveillance and monitoring program for protective storage. In particular the surveillance program has developed into a well-established routine. The technical projects described in our previous updates have not yet been completed, however. One consequence of this is that the SAVANNAH will remain in Baltimore for the time being. A new layberthing contract was awarded in the spring, with a potential full term of five years (to May 2016) if all options are exercised.

National Maritime Day and Public Events
National Maritime Day (May 22) holds special significance onboard the Nuclear Ship SAVANNAH, as it commemorates the 1819 sailing date of our pioneering namesake, the Steam Ship SAVANNAH, on its eastbound transatlantic voyage. In 1958, National Maritime Day was the day on which N.S. SAVANNAH‘s keel was laid; the ceremonial start of the ship’s construction. National Maritime Day is observed onboard the ship by the SAVANNAH Technical Staff, and since 2009 the SAVANNAH has served as the host site for the Port of Baltimore’s observance ceremony. In 2010 and again in 2011, the National Maritime Day event included a well-attended Public Open House.

March 2009

Public Open House and Meeting Announcement
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will host a public meeting onboard the SAVANNAH on Wednesday, March 11, 2009. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm, and provides a forum for MARAD and the NRC to discuss and receive comments from the public on MARAD’s Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR). A copy of the PSDAR can be found on the SAVANNAH library page.  The SAVANNAH will be open to the public for inspection prior to the meeting, beginning at 4:00 pm.  The meeting will conclude at about 9:00 pm. The SAVANNAH is located at Canton Marine Terminal Pier 13, 4601 Newgate Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224. For a downloadable map and directions click here.

MARAD submitted the PSDAR to the NRC on December 11, 2008. The NRC noticed the receipt and requested public comments in the Federal Register on January 28, 2009. Submitting the PSDAR was the last major action needed to bring MARAD’s fundamental licensing basis for the SAVANNAH up to date. The PSDAR describes in detail the actions that MARAD took in the past to mothball the SAVANNAH after it was removed from service, and the actions that must be taken in the future to complete decommissioning its nuclear facilities and terminate our NRC license. In addition to this required content, the PSDAR also describes a concept for preserving the nuclear reactor instead of dismantling it. Although preserving a licensed nuclear facility is not a normal part of a regulated facility’s lifecycle, there have been some extraordinary examples of nuclear preservation in the United States and abroad. MARAD is very interested in receiving comments about this concept.

Ship Activities
We have continued with routine maintenance and ship husbandry since arriving in Baltimore last May. A lot of effort has been directed to the ship systems that will be needed for long-term retention of the ship, particularly electrical distribution equipment and the ship’s mooring equipment. Additional work has been performed to rehabilitate shipboard spaces for our more active management and staffing of the ship and its nuclear facilities. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning has been retrofitted to service office space and records storage. Asbestos remediation is essentially complete within habitable zones of the ship. A new fire and smoke detection system has been installed and is being tested; this system will protect visitors and employees while they are onboard.

License compliance programs and decommissioning planning are continuing, with emphasis on those activities needed to bring the SAVANNAH into conformance with contemporary NRC requirements for nuclear facilities in retention (SAFSTOR). Much of the thrust of these activities are described in the PSDAR, and may be discussed at the public meeting on March 11.

Future Events
In the next few weeks we will have a dedicated 50th Anniversary page on the web site to provide details of planned events commemorating important milestones in the ship’s history. The major 50th Anniversary events planned for 2009 will occur over the weekend of July 17-19, in observance of the anniversary of the ship’s christening by Mamie Eisenhower, and its launching. The weekend will include reunion events for the retired crew and program staff, an invitational fundraising dinner for the NS SAVANNAH Association, Inc. (a newly formed 501(c)(3) non-profit to support conservation of the ship), and a free public open house on that Sunday. Details will be posted to the 50th Anniversary page in the coming weeks.

N.S. SAVANNAH will once again host festivities to observe National Maritime Day on May 22. This time the invitational event is being sponsored by the Chesapeake Club of the United States Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association. Anyone interested in participating can contact the Club at for more information.

The Maine Maritime Academy training ship State of Maine is expected to call the Port of Baltimore from June 22 – 25. The Mainiacs who serve on the STS are looking forward to greeting their fellow shipmates when they arrive – the first port call to Baltimore by a state academy training ship since the now-retired (and reefed) Texas Clipper was here in the summer of 1992.

September 2008

A lot has happened since our last update in January. SAVANNAH completed a very successful dry-docking period in late March; and remained at the BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair yard in Norfolk throughout April and the first week of May, while our General Agent, Keystone Shipping, contracted for a long-term lay-berth. After evaluating the bids received, Keystone awarded the contract to Canton Marine Terminals, a unit of the Vane Brothers Company in Baltimore. With options the lay-berth contract extends for three years.

Some of the highlights of the dry-docking availability included the following:

  • The ship’s entire exterior surface was prepared and re-coated. The above-water livery (color scheme) was applied based on contemporary 1959 documents and color charts discovered through archival research.
  • The ship’s external and internal structure was thoroughly examined, and generally found to be in excellent condition. Repairs that had been made to the underwater hull in 1994 were found to be intact, and no significant new repairs were required. To improve the performance of the cathodic protection system, the ship’s propeller was removed. We capped the tail shaft and stern tube.
  • Surveys and inspections were conducted to bring the ship back into classification with the American Bureau of Shipping.
  • A number of improvements were made to support lay-berth operations. Among these were the fitting and installation of a stores davit and hatch, asbestos removal and remediation, access and egress modifications, and rehabilitation of public spaces.
  • Miscellaneous preservation activities included the removal of the deteriorated ceramic tile and concrete deck coverings on the Promenade Deck, including the two shuffle board courts. The tile was retained. These deck coverings had been penetrated by water, and the removal was necessary to allow inspection, repair and coating of the steel decks.
  • The removed ship’s propeller was placed on the number seven cargo hatch where it can be seen during tours and events.
  • The ship’s bell was installed on the after cargo truss, where it is now a featured part of public ceremonies and activities.

The SAVANNAH arrived at the Baltimore lay-berth facility on May 8, 2008. Almost immediately preparations commenced for a major event; the May 22, 2008 observance of National Maritime Day; and the fiftieth anniversary of the ship’s keel-laying ceremony. To commemorate these events a crew and program reunion was planned. This was the fourth reunion for the crew; the others were in 1983, 1992, and 1999. Many activities took place over the two-day reunion program. More than 250 people were onboard the ship on May 22, and about 200 were onboard on May 23. One highlight of the May 22 activities was the dedication of a new display featuring the ship’s historic marker plaques. Each plaque was rededicated by a representative of the organization that originally named the ship as a landmark; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the American Nuclear Society; and the United States National Park Service. Massachusetts Maritime Academy provided an honor guard for the festivities. Many other organizations, vendors and individuals contributed to the success of the event.

The SAVANNAH Technical Staff and the ship’s crew are now settled into routine operations in Baltimore. The principal focus of our activities is to complete our administrative and technical license compliance tasks, and to execute the engineering and planning activities necessary to bring the SAVANNAH into conformance with contemporary Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements for nuclear facilities in retention (SAFSTOR). On July 9, 2008 the agency held a public information meeting at the Canton Branch of the public library to discuss these activities in detail. The Maritime Administration also published an Environmental Assessment and corresponding Finding of No Significant Impact that describe these activities in great detail. These and other SAVANNAH documents will be made available in the near future; in the meantime, copies of these documents can be provided upon request (see our FAQs to request documents).