U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today visited Suisun Bay to announce that the Department of Transportation has surpassed its schedule for removing and recycling obsolete ships from the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. In 2010, the Department's Maritime Administration (MARAD) committed to removing 28 ships from the fleet by September 30, 2012. To date, MARAD has removed 36 ships, with three more vessels scheduled for removal by the end of the year.
"Three years ago, the Department of Transportation promised to get rid of the ships that posed a threat to the environment, and I am proud to announce today that we are delivering on that promise," said Secretary LaHood. "Removing these vessels restores the beauty of the bay and supports area jobs connected with the removal and recycling of the ships."
At the beginning of the Obama Administration, the Department of Transportation committed to taking a fresh look at the ship disposal program and the impact it had on the environment in the Suisun Bay. The Maritime Administration worked with local officials and environmental groups to revive stalled negotiations.
In October 2009, MARAD developed a plan that allowed it to begin awarding contracts to prioritize removing the most hazardous ships from the bay and improve cleaning methods for the rest. Out of an original fleet of 57, 21 now remain, and they will all be removed by September 30, 2017. In recent years, thanks to a strong scrap steel market, MARAD has sold fifteen vessels for recycling. As required by the National Maritime Heritage Act, 25 percent of the profit from those transactions is distributed to maritime academies around the country.
Maritime Administrator David Matsuda joined Secretary LaHood, local officials and environmental groups at the event, where he emphasized the Obama Administration's commitment to environmental sustainability.
"Our commitment to the environment was backed up by real action to safely remove obsolete ships and maintain our fleet in a responsible manner," said Administrator Matsuda. "At the same time, we listened to local officials and environmental interests and developed new, responsible maintenance practices for vessels that aren't being immediately recycled."
The Maritime Administration keeps ships at three National Defense Reserve Fleet sites: the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in California, the James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia and the Beaumont Reserve Fleet in Texas. All three anchorages are maintained by MARAD for national defense and national emergency purposes. When vessels are no longer useful, the Administration disposes of them in an environmentally responsible manner. In addition to the vessels removed from the SBRF, the Administration also removed eleven ships from the Beaumont and James River Reserve Fleets since October 2009.