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.
NDRF vessels are at the fleet sites at James River, Virginia–the 'James River Reserve Fleet'; Beaumont, Texas–the 'Beaumont Reserve Fleet'; and Suisun Bay, California – the 'Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet'; and at designated outported berths. Former anchorage sites included Stony Point, New York – the Hudson River Reserve Fleet; Wilmington, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; Astoria, Oregon; and Olympia, Washington.
Through the 2010s, the oldest, most decrepit hulls at Suisun Bay will be stripped of toxic materials, then broken up in Texas, California or Asia. Twenty of the most polluting mothball ships were slated for recycling by 2012, and another 32 by 2017.
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. As of January 2018, the number of ships was down to 98.
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, 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. 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 was closed in 1956. During the Berlin Crisis of 1961, 18 vessels were activated and remained in service until 1970. Another 172 vessels were activated for the Vietnam War.
Ready Reserve Force
In 1976, a Ready Reserve Force 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.
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. A total of 51 vessels have been transferred to 10 states under the program including: Texas (12), Florida (10), North Carolina (7), Virginia (6), Alabama (5), Mississippi (5), Georgia (2), South Carolina (2), California (1) and New Jersey (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, Sec. 508 and use the proceeds to buy more supply ships.
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 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 process began in October 2009; as of October 2012, 36 ships had been removed and the disposal effort was ahead of schedule. One such vessel, the SS Winthrop, the last Victory ship of the California mothball fleet, was towed in March 2010 to BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair dock to be cleaned of barnacles and plant matter before its final journey to ship breakers in Brownsville, Texas. 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—an application for such work is under permit review. Some $38 million in federal funds will be used to complete the dismantling project.
List of NDRF ships
|Name||Division||Hull No.||Year Built||Design||Home Port||Status|
|RRF - Tanker|
|Petersburg||Gulf||AOT 9101||1963||Stm/50K||San Francisco, CA||RRF|
|RRF - Roll-On/Roll-Off|
|Admiral W. M. Callaghan||Pacific||AKR 1001||1967||Gas Turbine||Alameda, CA||RRF|
|Algol||Pacific||T-AKR 287||1972||Navy Cargo||San Francisco, CA||RRF|
|Altair||Gulf||T-AKR 291||1973||Navy Cargo||Marrerro, LA||RRF|
|Antares||Atlantic||T-AKR 294||1973||Navy Cargo||Baltimore, MD||RRF|
|Bellatrix||Gulf||T-AKR 288||1973||Navy Cargo||Marrerro, LA||RRF|
|Cape Decision||Atlantic||AKR 5054||1973||G1-Dsl/s||Charleston, SC||RRF|
|Cape Diamond||Atlantic||AKR 5055||1972||G1-Dsl/F||Charleston, SC||RRF|
|Cape Domingo||Atlantic||AKR 5053||1973||G1-Dsl/F||Charleston, SC||RRF|
|Cape Douglas||Atlantic||AKR 5052||1973||G1-Dsl/F||Charleston, SC||RRF|
|Cape Ducato||Atlantic||AKR 5051||1972||G1-Dsl/F||Charleston, SC||RRF|
|Cape Edmont||Atlantic||AKR 5069||1971||G0-Dsl/S||Charleston, SC||RRF|
|Cape Henry||Pacific||AKR 5067||1979||G2-Dsl/Japan||San Francisco, CA||RRF|
|Cape Horn||Pacific||AKR 5068||1979||G2-Dsl/N||San Francisco, CA||RRF|
|Cape Hudson||Pacific||AKR 5066||1979||G2-Dsl/N||San Francisco, CA||RRF|
|Cape Inscription||Pacific||AKR 5076||1976||C7-S-95a||Long Beach, CA||RRF|
|Cape Intrepid||Pacific||T-AKR11||1976||C7-S-95a||Tacoma, WA||RRF|
|Cape Isabel||Pacific||AKR 5062||1976||C7-S-95a||Long Beach, CA||RRF|
|Cape Island||Pacific||T-AKR10||1977||C7-S-95a||Tacoma, WA||RRF|
|Cape Kennedy||Gulf||AKR 5083||1979||Dsl/Netherland||New Orleans, LA||RRF|
|Cape Knox||Gulf||AKR 5082||1978||Dsl/Netherland||New Orleans, LA||RRF|
|Cape Orlando||Pacific||AKR 2044||1981||Dsl/Sweden||Alameda, CA||RRF|
|Cape Race||Atlantic||AKR 9960||1977||Dsl/Japan||Portsmouth, VA||RRF|
|Cape Ray||Atlantic||AKR 9679||1977||Dsl/Japan||Portsmouth, VA||RRF|
|Cape Rise||Atlantic||AKR 9678||1977||Dsl/Japan||Portsmouth, VA||RRF|
|Cape Taylor||Gulf||AKR 113||1977||Dsl/Japan||Port of Beaumont, TX||RRF|
|Cape Texas||Gulf||AKR 112||1977||Dsl/Japan||Port of Beaumont, TX||RRF|
|Cape Trinity||Gulf||AKR 9711||1977||Dsl/Germany||Port of Beaumont, TX||RRF|
|Cape Victory||Gulf||AKR 9701||1984||Dsl/Italy||MLF, Orange, TX||RRF|
|Cape Vincent||Gulf||AKR 9666||1984||Dsl/Italy||MLF, Orange, TX||RRF|
|Cape Washington||Atlantic||AKR 9961||1982||Dsl/Poland||Baltimore, MD||RRF|
|Cape Wrath||Atlantic||AKR 9962||1982||Dsl/Poland||Baltimore, MD||RRF|
|Capella||Pacific||T-AKR 293||1972||Navy Cargo||San Francisco, CA||RRF|
|Denebola||Atlantic||T-AKR 289||1973||Navy Cargo||Baltimore, MD||RRF|
|Pollux||Gulf||T-AKR 290||1973||Navy Cargo||MLF, Orange, TX||RRF|
|Regulus||Gulf||T-AKR 292||1972||Navy Cargo||MLF, Orange, TX||RRF|
|RRF - Crane Ship|
|Cornhusker State||Atlantic||T-ACS 6||1969||C5-S-MA73c||Newport News, VA||RRF|
|Flickertail State||Atlantic||T-ACS 5||1967||C5-S-MA73c||Newport News, VA||RRF|
|Gem State||Pacific||T-ACS 2||1966||C6-S-MA1qd||Alameda, CA||RRF|
|Gopher State||Atlantic||T-ACS4||1972||C5-S-MA73c||Newport News, VA||RRF|
|Grand Canyon State||Pacific||T-ACS 3||1965||C6-s-MA1qd||Alameda, CA||RRF|
|Keystone State||Pacific||T-ACS 1||1966||C6-S-MA1qd||Alameda, CA||RRF|
|RRF - Break Bulk|
|Curtiss||Pacific||T-AVB 4||1969||C5-S-78a||San Diego, CA||RRF|
|Wright||Atlantic||T-AVB 3||1970||C5-S-78a||Philadelphia, PA||RRF|
|RRF - Barge Ship|
|Cape Mohican||Pacific||AKR 5065||1973||C8-S-82a||Oakland, CA||RRF|
|Retention - Tanker|
|Paul Buck||Gulf||T-AOT 1122||1985||Champion||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Interim Hold|
|Richard G. Matthiesen||Gulf||T-AOT 1124||1985||Champion||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Militarily Useful|
|Samuel L. Cobb||Gulf||T-AOT 1123||1985||Champion||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Interim Hold|
|Retention - Passenger Ship|
|Empire State||Atlantic||TAP 1001||1962||S5-S-MA1ua||Ft. Schuyler, NY||School Ship|
|Golden Bear||Pacific||T-AGS 39||1971||S4-M-MA154a||Vallejo, CA||School Ship|
|Kennedy||Atlantic||TAK 5059||1967||S5-S-MA66b||Buzzards Bay, MA||School Ship|
|State of Maine||Atlantic||T-AGS 40||1989||S4-M-MA154b||Castine, ME||School Ship|
|Retention - Other|
|FB-62 (APL BARGE)||Pacific||APL-24||1944||Barracks CRF||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Fleet Support|
|Freedom Star (R)||Atlantic||7925314||1981||Research Vessel||Piney Point, MD||School Ship|
|Kings Pointer||Atlantic||7925302||1981||Research||Kings Point, NY||School Ship|
|Pacific Collector||Pacific||T-AGS 29||1970||S3-M-MA-153c||Portland, OR||Other Agency Use|
|Pacific Tracker||Pacific||MA #144||1965||S6-S-MA60e||Portland, OR||Other Agency Use|
|Retention - Military|
|General Rudder||Gulf||T-AGOS 2||1984||Navy OcnSurv||Galveston, TX||School Ship|
|State of Michigan||Gulf||T-AGOS 6||1985||Navy OcnSurv||Traverse City, MI||School Ship|
|Triumph||Pacific||T-AGOS 4||1984||Navy OcnSurv||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Logistics Support|
|Retention - Crane Ship|
|Diamond State||Gulf||T-ACS 7||1960||C6-S-MA1xb||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Logistics Support|
|Green Mountain State||Pacific||T-ACS 9||1965||C6-S-MA60d||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Logistics Support|
|Retention - Break Bulk|
|Cape Ann||Atlantic||AK 5009||1962||C4-S-58a||JRRF, James River, VA||Training Use|
|Cape Bover||Pacific||AK 5057||1966||C4-S-66a||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Logistics Support|
|Cape Chalmers||Atlantic||AK 5036||1963||C3-S-37c||Charleston, SC||Training Use|
|Cape Gireadeau||Pacific||AK 2039||1968||C5-S-75a||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Logistics Support|
|Cape Jacob||Pacific||TAK 5029||1961||C4-S-1u||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Logistics Support|
|Cape Juby||Atlantic||TAK 5077||1962||C4-S-1u||JRRF, James River, VA||Logistics Support|
|Cape Nome||Atlantic||AK 1014||1969||C5-S-78a||JRRF, James River, VA||Logistics Support|
|Del Monte||Atlantic||MA 200||1968||C3-S-76a||Little Creek, VA||Training Use|
|Savannah||Atlantic||55||1962||P2-N1-MA40a||Baltimore, MD||National Register|
|Retention - Barge Ship|
|Cape Farewell||Gulf||AK 5073||1973||C9-S-81d||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Militarily Useful|
|Cape Fear||Pacific||AK 5061||1971||C8-S-81b||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||Logistics Support|
|Cape Flattery||Gulf||AK 5070||1973||C9-S-81d||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Militarily Useful|
|Cape Mendocin||Gulf||AKR 5064||1972||C8-S-82a||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Logistics Support|
|Non-retention - Tanker|
|Chesapeake||Gulf||AOT 5084||1964||Stm/50K||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Stripping|
|Non-retention - Roll-On/Roll-Off|
|Cape Lobos||Gulf||AKR 5078||1972||Dsl/Canada||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Disposal|
|Non-retention - Other|
|Harkness||Atlantic||T-AGS 32||1967||S4-M-MA153b||Brownsville, TX||Disposal|
|Non-retention - Military|
|Observation Island||Gulf||T-AGM 28||1954||C4-S-1a||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Disposal|
|Simon Lake||Atlantic||AS-33||1964||Sub Tender||JRRF, James River, WA||Disposal|
|Sumner||Gulf||T-AGS 61||1992||Navy OcnSurv||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Disposal|
|Tripoli||Gulf||LPH-10||1966||Amphib, Helo||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Disposal|
|Non-retention - Crane Ship|
|Equality State||Gulf||T-ACS 8||1962||C6-S-MA1xb||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Disposal|
|Non-retention - Break Bulk|
|Cape Alava||Atlantic||AK 5012||1962||C4-S-58a||JRRF, James River, VA||Disposal|
|Cape Alexander||Atlantic||AK 5010||1962||C4-S-58a||JRRF, James River, VA||Disposal|
|Cape Archway||Atlantic||AK 5011||1963||C4-S-58a||JRRF, James River, VA||Disposal|
|Cape Avinoff||Atlantic||AK 5013||1963||C4-S-58a||JRRF, James River, VA||Stripping|
|Cape Borda||Pacific||AK 5058||1967||C4-S-66a||Brownsville, TX||Disposal|
|Cape Breton||Pacific||AK 5056||1967||C4-S-66a||Brownsville, TX||Disposal|
|Cape Gibson||Gulf||AK 5051||1968||C5-S-75a||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Disposal|
|Cape Johnson||Atlantic||TAK 5075||1962||C4-S-1u||Brownsville, TX||Disposal|
|Non-retention - Barge Ship|
|Cape Florida||Gulf||AK 5071||1971||C8-S-81B||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Stripping|
|Custody - Other|
|Bravante IX||Gulf||SV 290||2014||Offshore Supply||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Title XI|
|Iris||Pacific||WLB 395||1943||Buoy Tender||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||USCG|
|Planetree||Pacific||WLB 307||1943||Buoy Tender||SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA||USCG|
|Custody - Military|
|Nassau||Gulf||LHA-4||1979||Amphib, Helo||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Navy|
|Custody - Barge|
|Army Barges||Gulf||No Number||2009||Barge||BRF, Beaumont, TX||Army|
- Reserve fleet
- Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet
- United States Navy reserve fleets
- U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
- "NDRF Inventory" (PDF). December 31, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2018.[dead link]
- "MARAD inventory". maritime.dot.gov. Retrieved February 24, 2019. (Current as of September 2018 with year-end summaries)
- "Ship Inventory: Ready Reserve Force Ships". Military Sealift Command. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
- "Mothballing the US Navy after WWII". March 27, 2016.
- "National Defense Reserve Fleet". Naval Vessel Register. Archived from the original on December 25, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
- "Editorial: Settlement on rotting ships a good one". InsideBayArea. The Oakland Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- Peele, Thomas (July 8, 2007). "State demands toxic paint from ships be cleaned". InsideBayArea. The Oakland Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- Anthony, Laura (March 31, 2010). "Feds to remove toxic ships from Suisun Bay". ABC KGO-TV Local News. abc7news.com. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- "U.S. Transportation Secretary Visits Suisun Bay to Celebrate Surpassing Goal in Recycling of Obsolete Vessels". Maritime Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. October 12, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- York, Jessica A. (March 18, 2010). "Last of WWII Victory ships to be removed from Suisun Bay". Vallejo Times-Herald. The MediaNewsGroup. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to National Defense Reserve Fleet.|
- NDRF inventory archive
- U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the US Department of Transportation. (This article incorporates material taken from that public domain website.)
- National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) at the Federation of American Scientists' website.
- Ship inventory of the NDRF as at July 31 2014 (More recent records, when available, may be accessed by changing the last part of the link URL, using the format /iyymmdd.pdf - note that mmdd must be the last day of the relevant month.)
- pmars.marad.dot.gov MARAD/DOT official data on current inventory and historical records.
- PMARS MARAD Reserve Fleet Current Inventory
- Inside the Ghost Ships of the Mothball Fleet Unauthorized Photo Essay of the NDRF (May 2011)
- Satellite image of the Reserve Fleet in the James River near Fort Eustis, Virginia from Google Maps
- Aerial image of the Reserve Fleet in the Suisun Bay near Benicia, California from Google Maps
- Satellite image of the Reserve Fleet in the Neches River near Beaumont, Texas from Google Maps