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Suisun Bay Mothball Fleet Headed South

Cap on Number of Ships available for Local Dismantling Likely

Fleet Expected Broken in Texas and Louisiana


By Marc Garman

A notice of sole sourcing (dated Feb. 13, 2009) has been awarded to BAE Systems, San Francisco Ship Repair Inc. for “removal of marine growth from underwater hull surfaces and preparation of vessels” (from the Suisun Bay Mothball Fleet)for open ocean tow to a ship dismantling facility outside the Bay area.”

See document link HERE

BAE Systems runs the huge floating dry dock at Pier 70 just below 20th Street in San Francisco.

According to Deborah Velmere at the Department of Transportation Maritime Division, the ships will be cleaned in order to comply with environmental requirements, and then towed to dismantlers in Louisiana and Brownsville, Texas, pending contracts being awarded through MARAD (US Maritime Administration).

This likely means that any ship dismantling planned for the Mare Island dry docks would be limited to only those vessels deemed too fragile to be towed. According to several insiders VIB has spoken with, it seems that perhaps 8 or 10 old “Liberty” ships would fall into the “too fragile” category. The “Liberty” ships were built hurriedly to carry cargo during WW II when German U-Boats were effectively wreaking havoc on allied shipping. They were never intended to endure.

Lennar Mare Island, the master tenant on the island has been in discussions with CDDS (California Dry Dock Solutions—a subsidiary of ADR—Allied Defense Recycling) regarding the re-opening of dry dock #2 for use in shipbreaking and perhaps ship repair. This latest development would, at least, put a cap on a possible dismantling operation on the island. At most, it could preclude such activity.

This is sure to be viewed as a good thing by some and a missed opportunity by others. Hopefully, if operations are initiated in dry dock #2, the focus can move from shipbreaking to fabrication or repair when the limited number of vessels possibly designated for local dismantling have been finished. A maritime operation on Mare Island not solely focused on one activity might be more sustainable.

Little has happened regarding the re-use of the dry docks on Mare Island over the past several years despite the efforts of several interested parties.

Santa Maria Shipping LLC had hopes of an enterprise that would build small container ships for coastal transport. That project has apparently been abandoned.

A conversation with Polly Parks of Southern Recycling—a major ship dismantler-- based in Louisiana revealed that her company had previously been in talks with Lennar Mare Island and was unable to achieve any result. “We'd love to come in. If they ever want to use us they have our phone number.” said Parks.

Southern Recycling is one of the largest ship dismantlers in the U.S. They, along with International Shipbreaking Ltd., ASCO Marine Metals and All Star Metals of Brownsville, Texas will likely do the majority of the dissembly of the Suisun Bay Fleet after the vessels have been towed to them.

One common recurring theme among all the maritime industry companies VIB has contacted is the alleged unwillingness of Lennar MI to facilitate the use of the Mare Island dry docks. Without prompting, tales of bureaucratic barriers being erected in the face of any maritime project on the island are repeated in one form or another. Is this merely a case of sour grapes among those who were not successful? or a protectionism that is negatively impacting revenue for Vallejo ? Is Lennar protecting only their own interests? or looking out for the long term welfare of the city? As a developer it is only natural that they would have an interest in blocking any activity that might further depreciate their housing projects.

Of course, the stigma and toxicity of industries such as shipbreaking are viewed as detrimental by many.

Vallejo clearly needs to generate revenue and create jobs as well as control expense in order to find a path to fiscal health.

We must carefully choose what role Mare Island will play. For now, shipbreaking would seem to be a limited endeavor at best.