June 24, 2004

More "ghost ships" to leave James River

Three ships will leave the James River Reserve Fleet this summer. And their departure should cause less controversy than the contract that has left four ex-U.S. Navy ships languishing in administrative limbo as Britain's Able UK gets its paperwork together.

This latest trio of "ghost ships" is headed for Brownsville, Texas.

Today, U.S. Maritime Administrator Captain William G. Schubert announced that Marine Metals of Brownsville has been awarded three contracts valued at $3.1 million to dismantle the American Banker, the Mormacmoon, and the Santa Cruz. All three ships are considered high-priority vessels for dismantling and recycling.

"This Administration is working very hard to get these ships out of the James River and on their way to qualified ship breaking yards," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. "We are all very anxious to reduce the number of ships in the fleet," he added.

"Through a lot of hard work and determination, we continue to achieve results that we have not had for many years," said Schubert. "During the 1990's, ships in this fleet accumulated due to prolonged inactivity," he said. "We have seriously faced this task in the wake of many inherited challenges and hurdles. It remains our goal to remove high-priority ships from our fleets as soon as possible."

The contract with Marine Metals is the first for MARAD this year, but the latest in a series of similar awards made since spring 2003. Twelve obsolete ships have left the James River in the last 15 months, going to facilities in the United Kingdom, Chesapeake, VA, and Brownsville, TX. The following list details contract awards made since last year, not including the Marine Metals contract announced today:

* PRP/Able UK 15 ships $14.846 million
* Bay Bridge 1 ship $ 1.104 million
* Bay Bridge 4 ships $ 1.660 million
* ESCO Marine 1 ship $ 779 thousand
* ISL 1 ship $ 1.353 million
* U.S. Navy 1 ship $ 653 thousand

MARAD serves as the U.S. Government's disposal agent for merchant-type vessels of 1,500 gross tons or more.  There are approximately 119 vessels available for disposal located in the three fleet sites of the National Defense Reserve Fleet, of which 63 are located in the James River Reserve Fleet in Newport News, VA.

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