The environmental group Basel Action Network (BAN) said the U.S. Maritime Administration has adopted a new policy effectively ending the federal artificial reefing program that allowed the scuttling of old ships for artificial reefs.
The practice dates back to the 1972 Liberty Ship Act.
"Since the program's inception, approximately 45 ships have been disposed of at sea, along with untold tons of toxic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals built into each vessel, as well as many millions of dollars worth of steel and non-ferrous metal resources," BAN said.
BAN called it "a victory for U.S. jobs in the domestic ship recycling industry and a win for the environment."
However, MarAd spokesman Michael Novak told American Shipper
on Wednesday "while the timeframe governing the availability of vessels for
artificial reefing has been extended and ships built prior to 1985 are
restricted, MarAd has not ended its vessel reefing program. In recent
years, given the time and expense involved, fewer vessels have been
disposed of through artificial reefing as compared to recycling at a
BAN said "MarAd's new policy excludes from artificial reefing consideration of any vessel that was built before 1985 (and likely to contain PCBs)."
Colby Self, director of BAN's ship recycling campaign, said PCBs are found in transformers and plastic insulation, paint and other materials on ships. He noted the chemicals are toxic, potentially carcinogenic, and build up in the marine food chain.
BAN said "all 38 so called non-retention ships that are designated for disposal in MarAd's National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), mostly made up of ex-naval vessels, were built before 1985 and will thus all go to domestic recyclers." Only one of the vessels was built after 1985, the group said.
The group also seeks to end the U.S. SINKEX (sinking exercise) program. - Chris Dupin