The complicated story of the Suisun Bay Mothball Fleet

Here’s the complicated story of the Suisun Bay National Defense Reserve Fleet, and  the latest on its possible closure from the San Francisco Chronicle

The federal government and environmental groups reached an agreement Wednesday that will mean the end of the ghost fleet of retired ships in Suisun Bay.

The vessels were once part of a mighty reserve fleet of warships and freighters, but time and neglect has turned them into what one environmental advocate called “a floating toxic waste dump.”

Only 52 ships remain of a fleet that once was as big as a good-size Navy, and these rusting old vessels will be removed and cleaned up for an ocean voyage to Texas, where they will be scrapped. The fleet will be reduced gradually, with 25 ships in the worst condition taken out within two years and the remainder by fall 2017. The settlement, which must be approved by a federal court in Sacramento, ends a long dispute over the ships, which have been a fixture in the bay just east of Benicia for generations.

After World War II, there were thousands of surplus ships, and, in 1946, the Maritime Administration began keeping the best of them in reserve. At one time, more than 350 ships were in the fleet, including cruisers, destroyers, supply ships, transports and tankers. Many of them were broken out for service in the Korean and Vietnam wars, but the rest stayed in Suisun Bay and gradually became neglected and obsolete – a fleet of ghosts tied up in rows, waiting for a call to duty that never came.

This video produced by the SF Chronicle provides a quick summary of the complications facing the Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay, and some unique shots and glimpses of the fleet.

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