California Ships to Reefs (CSTR) has come forth with a statement affirming that the recent decision by the Obama administration to clean derelict military ships in San Francisco Bay before disposing of them is an important, positive first step. But the organization continued by saying preparing them for sinking and using them to create artificial reefs will provide a more environmentally sound solution with robust economic benefits.
In late October, the administration directed that two of the vessels of the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet (SBRF) have their exteriors cleaned in dry dock and sent to Brownsville, Texas for scrapping and recycling. The SBRF is a group of derelict, obsolete military ships anchored near the San Francisco bay under the responsibility of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and Department of the Navy. This development in the disposition of the SBRF vessels is an important step towards reduction of the cost of maintenance as well as environmental impact of the fleet of decommissioned ships.
But this is not the most effective long-term solution for disposal of the ships, CSTR noted. Instead, if the ships are prepared for sinking as artificial reefs along the California coastline, they can help repopulate some of the state’s depleted marine resources and become scuba diving and sport fishing attractions, bringing in much needed income to coastal communities.
“Using the vessels to create artificial reefs will benefit the entire business community in these areas”, CSTR Public Relations Chairman Kevin Sullivan said. “Businesses from restaurants to hotels to gas stations and beyond will benefit long-term from the placement of artificial reefs in the waters off their coastline,” he said. This was proven, he noted, when the HMCS Yukon was reefed off San Diego in 2000. Today it attracts10,800 divers per year, 6,000 of which are from out-of-area, bringing in $4.5 million per year to the San Diego economy. The Yukon cost only $1.2 million to reef, providing the area a dramatic return on its investment.
Preparing vessels for reefing, including cleaning of the hulls and interiors to very strict environmental standards and diverization — the process of making the ship safe for recreational scuba diving — also provide an immediate economic stimulus. New jobs are created for the skilled work of marine maintenance and salvage.
California Ships to Reefs is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation seeking to reef surplus ships as artificial reefs, bringing diving and fishing tourism to local ports in California and enhancing the ocean environment. For further information, visit the organization’s website at www.californiashipstoreefs.org.