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Two Navy Ships That Cost $300 Million Are Headed To The Scrapyard Without Having Seen A Day Of Service

Robert Johnson | Jul. 15, 2011, 2:23 PM

Embroiled by legal battles for more than 25 years, two U.S. Navy ships are finally headed to the scrap heap without ever having sailed and despite the fact that they're almost completely finished.

According to Hampton Roads, the USNS Bejamin Isherwood and the USNS Henry Eckford were commissioned in 1985 at the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Co. to carry fuel to the Navy's fleet around the globe.


USNS Benjamin Isherwood


USNS Benjamin Isherwood #191

Image: wikipedia commons

When the company defaulted on its Navy contract in 1989 the 660-foot ships were sent to Florida for completion, but cost disputes terminated that contract in 1993.

Since then, the vessels have sat 95 and 84 percent complete at the mouth of the James River as part of the mothballed ghost fleet.

In 1997, the Navy cut its ties and British company Able UK considered re-commissioning them for international sale to a NATO country.

Because they're single-hulled ships, not the double-hulls required of today's tankers, Able UK passed and instead took $10 million to scrap them along with two other ghost ships.

This week both vessels are being towed to International Shipbreaking Limited in Brownsville, TX to be cut up, their innards pulled out and their steel and other metals sold for recycling.

Hampton Roads quotes Joseph Keefe from maritimeprofessional.com who says the scrapping of the tankers will "close one of the saddest chapters in American shipbuilding and for that matter, federal fiduciary folly."

No money will be returned to the U.S. treasury.

The James River ghost fleet isn't the only one in the U.S. > Check out the inside of the San Francisco fleet.


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