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National Defense Reserve Fleet

National Defense Reserve Fleet

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The National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) consists of "mothballed" ships, mostly merchant vessels, that can be activated within 20 to 120 days to provide shipping for the United States of America during national emergencies, either military or non-military, such as commercial shipping crises.

The NDRF is managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD). It is a different entity from the United States Navy reserve fleets
United States Navy reserve fleets
The United States Navy maintains a number of its ships as part of a reserve fleet, often called the "Mothball Fleet". While the details of the activity have changed several times, the basics are constant: keep the ships afloat and sufficiently working as to be reactivated quickly in an...

, which consist largely of warships.

NDRF vessels are at the fleet sites at James River
James River (Virginia)
The James River is a river in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is long, extending to if one includes the Jackson River, the longer of its two source tributaries. The James River drains a catchment comprising . The watershed includes about 4% open water and an area with a population of 2.5 million...

, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 - the 'James River Reserve Fleet'; Beaumont
Beaumont, Texas
Beaumont is a city in and county seat of Jefferson County, Texas, United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's population was 118,296 at the 2010 census. With Port Arthur and Orange, it forms the Golden Triangle, a major industrial area on the...

, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

- the 'Beaumont Reserve Fleet
Beaumont Reserve Fleet
The Beaumont Reserve Fleet is maintained in Beaumont, Texas as part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet , maintained by the Maritime Administration , an agency of the Department of Transportation ....

'; and Suisun Bay
Suisun Bay
Suisun Bay is a shallow tidal estuary at in northern California, USA. It lies at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, forming the entrance to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, an inverted river delta...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

; and at designated outported berths. Former anchorage sites included Stony Point
Stony Point, New York
Stony Point is a triangle-shaped town in Rockland County, United States. Rockland County is part of the New York Metropolitan Area. The town is located north of the town of Haverstraw, east and south of Orange County, New York, and west of the Hudson River and Westchester County. The population...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

; Wilmington
Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington is a port city in and is the county seat of New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. The population is 106,476 according to the 2010 Census, making it the eighth most populous city in the state of North Carolina...

, North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

; Mobile
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

, Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

; Astoria
Astoria, Oregon
Astoria is the county seat of Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, the city was named after the American investor John Jacob Astor. His American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site in 1811...

, Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

; and Olympia
Olympia, Washington
Olympia is the capital city of the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County. It was incorporated on January 28, 1859. The population was 46,478 at the 2010 census...

, Washington.

Through the 2010s, the oldest, most decrepit hulls at Suisun Bay will be stripped of toxic materials, then broken up
Ship breaking
Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of a few decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair becomes uneconomical. Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially...

 in Texas, California or Asia. Twenty of the most polluting mothball ships are slated for recycling by 2012, as are 32 more by 2017. Unaffected will be the battleship which has been moved to Richmond to prepare for relocation to the Port of Los Angeles
Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles, also called Los Angeles Harbor and WORLDPORT L.A, is a port complex that occupies of land and water along of waterfront. The port is located on San Pedro Bay in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles, approximately south of downtown...

 to become a museum ship
Museum ship
A museum ship, or sometimes memorial ship, is a ship that has been preserved and converted into a museum open to the public, for educational or memorial purposes...

.

At its peak in 1950, the NDRF had 2,277 ships in lay-up. In 2003, it had 274. In July 2007, it held 230 ships, primarily dry cargo ships with some tankers, military auxiliaries and other types.

History


The NDRF was established under Section 11 of the Merchant Ship Sales Act of 1946 to serve as a reserve of ships for national defense and national emergencies.

NDRF vessels were used in seven wars and crises. During the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, 540 vessels were broken out to move military forces. During a worldwide tonnage shortfall in 1951-53, more than 600 ships were reactivated to carry coal to Northern Europe and grain to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. From 1955 through 1964, another 600 ships were used to store grain for the Department of Agriculture. Another 223 cargo ships and 29 tankers were activated during a tonnage shortfall after the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 was closed in 1956. During the Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 crisis of 1961, 18 vessels were activated and remained in service until 1970. Another 172 vessels were activated for the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

.

Ready Reserve Force


In 1976, a Ready Reserve Fleet component was established as a subset of the NDRF to provide rapid deployment of military equipment and later became known as the Ready Reserve Force, which numbers 72 vessels. These are crewed with a reduced crew but kept available for activation within four, five, ten or twenty days.

An additional 28 ships are held under United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) custody for other Government agencies on a cost-reimbursable basis including the 1943 vintage battleship at Suisun Bay
Suisun Bay
Suisun Bay is a shallow tidal estuary at in northern California, USA. It lies at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, forming the entrance to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, an inverted river delta...

.

Operations


Vessels with military utility or logistic value are held in retention status and are in a preservation program that is designed to keep them in the same condition as when they enter the fleet. The internal spaces are dehumidified to slow the corrosion of metal and the growth of mold and mildew. DC power is distributed through anodes to the exterior underwater portions of the hull, creating an electric field that suppresses corrosion and preserves the surface of the hull. External painting and other cosmetic work is generally deferred since it does not affect the ability to activate and operate the vessel.

MARAD is authorized as the government’s disposal agent through the NDRF program for merchant type vessels equal to or greater than 1,500 gross tons. A state agency can file an application to request title to a vessel "as-is where-is" from the NDRF for the purpose of creating an artificial reef
Artificial reef
An artificial reef is a human-made underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom, control erosion, block ship passage, or improve surfing....

. A total of 51 vessels have been transferred to 10 states under the program including: Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 (12), Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 (10), North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 (7), Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 (6), Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

 (5), Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 (5), Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 (2), South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 (2), California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 (1) and New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 (1). Of the 132 non-retention vessels in the NDRF, there are 117 that are being prepared for disposal.

The NDRF program can give and lend historic artifacts to maritime-heritage organizations and transfer entire ships to memorial associations through special legislation.

Inactive naval ships of merchant design, including amphibious ships but not ships maintained in a mobilization status by MARAD for Military Sealift Command (MSC), may be laid up in the NDRF when overcrowded berthing conditions exist at a Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility. Battleships, cruisers, and aircraft carriers which have been stricken or those awaiting final disposition may be transferred to MARAD locations for berthing.

Initially, these ships will be transferred to MARAD for caretaking in accordance with the Economy Act of 1932.

Ships transferred to the NDRF may be retained in Navy Mobilization Plans and maintained by MARAD under priorities set by the Department of the Navy. If the Navy decides it no longer needs the ship, the Secretary of the Navy strikes the ship from the Naval Vessel Register and transfers the title to MARAD. When possible, MARAD gets first disposition rights, which allows it to convert merchant ships to the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) or to sell the ship for scrapping in connection with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936
Merchant Marine Act of 1936
The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 is a United States federal law. Its purpose is "to further the development and maintenance of an adequate and well-balanced American merchant marine, to promote the commerce of the United States, to aid in the national defense, to repeal certain former legislation,...

, Sec. 508 and use the proceeds to buy more supply ships.http://www.nvr.navy.mil/stat_11.htm

Fleet reduction



The Suisun Bay location contained 324 ships in 1959. Forty years later, the number was down by about 250, but pollutants had begun to accumulate in the area. Paint containing toxins such as lead, copper, zinc and barium had been flaking off of many of the ships' hulls and superstructures. By June 2007, some 21 tons of toxic paint debris was estimated to have been shed from the ships, to settle in the bay sediment. A further 65 tons of paint was estimated to be in danger of flaking off.

David Matsuda, acting administrator of MARAD, said in March 2010 "We are moving expeditiously to remove the worst-polluting ships first and diligently moving to clean the rest." Some 52 ships were identified as problematic, and were scheduled for removal and recycling by September 2017. The 20 that were in the most advanced state of decay were to be eliminated by September 2012, that process beginning in November 2009. One such vessel, the SS Winthrop, the last Victory ship
Victory ship
The Victory ship was a type of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace shipping losses caused by German submarines...

 of the California mothball fleet, was towed in March 2010 to BAE Systems
BAE Systems
BAE Systems plc is a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company headquartered in London, United Kingdom, that has global interests, particularly in North America through its subsidiary BAE Systems Inc. BAE is among the world's largest military contractors; in 2009 it was the...

 San Francisco Ship Repair dock to be cleaned of barnacles and plant matter before its final journey to ship breakers in Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville, Texas
Brownsville is a city in the southernmost tip of the state of Texas, in the United States. It is located on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, directly north and across the border from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Brownsville is the 16th largest city in the state of Texas with a population of...

. The hull cleaning was prescribed by the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent the spread of California species to other locations. Some of the recycling work may be completed in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard
Mare Island Naval Shipyard
The Mare Island Naval Shipyard was the first United States Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean. It is located 25 miles northeast of San Francisco in Vallejo, California. The Napa River goes through the Mare Island Strait and separates the peninsula shipyard from the main portion of the...

—an application for such work is under permit review. Some $38 million in federal funds will be used to complete the dismantling project.

External links