Aliveeastbay.com Monday, July 11, 2011
A Partial posting of Story by Bob Fish, Trustee of the USS Hornet Museum and author of ‘Hornet Plus Three'
Photos are by: Susan Wood Photography
Travelers driving north across the Martinez Bridge are treated to an unusual sight upriver. A number of gray ships, moored abreast in several rows about a mile east of the bridge, patiently await their fate. These ships are commonly referred to by the public as the “mothball fleet.”
Immediately following the end of World War II, Congress voted to establish a National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) to serve as a reserve cadre of ships for national defense and national emergencies. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) maintains this fleet so it can provide surge sealift capability whenever required. MARAD is also responsible for disposing of reserve ships, and other non-combatant Government ships, as they become obsolete.
At its height in 1950, the NDRF (aka “mothball fleet” or “ghost fleet”) consisted of 2,277 ships kept at one of eight anchorages around the U.S. Over time, the NDRF has dwindled to just three anchorages: Fort Eustis, Virginia, Beaumont, Texas, and Suisun Bay in Benicia, California. As of March 31, 2011, there were only 183 vessels left, primarily dry cargo ships along with some tankers and military auxiliaries.
In 1976, an additional Ready Reserve Fleet component was established to provide rapid deployment of military equipment. The Ready Reserve Fleet comprises 48 vessels, some of which are kept with the “mothball” fleet. An additional 28 non-NDRF ships are held in storage for other government agencies. The Suisun Bay fleet contains all of these various categories of ships. For instance, the WWII battleship USS Iowa languishes in row “G” on a donation hold from the Navy until it becomes a museum in California.
Go To: Suisun Bay Page