Mothball Fleet seriously downsizes

- If you haven't seen it lately, the once massive Suisun Mothball Fleet has become a mothball miniature and that's good news for Bay waters. This morning, I was at the departure ceremony for one of the last ships that once was among more than a hundred. This now leaves just 13 ships in a mothball fleet that once numbered 340.

The Cape Borda, a 50 year old military ready reserve cargo ship, docked her at Vallejo's Mare Island, is the last of 59 ships of its class to leave the dwindling Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay over the past 7 years. Such ships, which can be readied for sea in a few days, carry vital supplies when war arises. The Cape Borda took supplies to the first Gulf War.

In 2010, a court ordered the U.S. Government to clean up the rusting, lead and toxics laden ships, that were fouling bay waters. At a cost of nearly a million dollars each, much of it paid for by the value of their own scrap metal, the ships went through a rigorous clean up process. "Thirty-four thousand cubic yards of asbestos, thirty-eight thousand cubic yards of PCBs and over 14 million gallons of waste water and oil," said Kevin Tokarski of the U.S. Maritime Administration. Nearly 400 tons of lead based pain and other toxic debris was removed and kept from spoiling the Bay." added Joel Szabat, also of  the U.S.. Maritime Administration.

After the court order, instead of engaging in an endless appeals war, the government and the environmentalists who sued, engaged in a kind of partnership to get the clean up done as soon as possible.  "And it really improved water quality here.  It's documents and we're able to prove it with data and congratulations to everybody on a job well done," said David Elias of the Bay Area Regional Water Board. "And it's been a very cooperative partnership. We've been working well together, mainly because they have accepted that they have a responsibility for these vessels," said Sejal Choxsi-Chugh of non-profit Baykeeper,

The ship will be towed through the Panama Canal to be dismantled in Brownsville, Texas on the Gulf Coast and its long service and history. "The recycling process is a reincarnation if you will; a reincarnation into a different type of history . That that you see right there could be in the next ship that we build, could be in the next bridge that we build, could be in the next tank. The history still keeps going," said Nick Shaw, President of All Star Metals Recycling.

The Mothball Fleet space will remain as one of just three ship storage facilities along with ones on the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. But, as ships age and need storage, this and two other on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will remain.


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