Suisun Bay Reserve (Mothball) Fleet

The Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet (SBRF) is located in Benecia, California and is a smaller branch of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) operated and maintained by Maratime Administration (MARAD.) Most of the ships are now decommissioned but the original concept behind the Reserve Fleet was to enable military equipment to be deployed at a moment’s notice, however once most of the ships entered the Reserve Fleet, they never left. The ships were moored in large rows, in the calm waters or large bays across the United States. Today, only three of the original eight anchorages exist; Suisun Bay, California; Fort Eustis, Virginia and Beaumont, Texas. 

Approximately 1,000 ships have called Suisun Bay home since 1946 and in 1956, the Benecia fleet reached its maximum of 324 vessels.

Throughout the years, these ships shed 20 tons of toxic paint into the bay, causing a stir with environmentalists. Samples of the water surrounding the fleet were taken and toxic levels of lead, cadmium and zinc were discovered in the species and water surrounding the fleet. Though these levels weren’t significantly higher, they were significant enough that a lawsuit was filed. 

In 2009, the Obama Administration demanded an expedited clean-up of the site to improve the quality of the marine life and waters. Approximately 300 tons of paint were removed from the ship’s hulls and a number of the vessels were slated for scrapping, many of which were located in Suisun Bay. Most of the scrapped ships were towed through the Panama Canal to Brownsville, Texas, but a few were scrapped locally in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard drydocks.  

In March 2013, only 28 ships remained and by 2016, only 12 ships called Suisun Bay home.

All of the vessels pictures here, with the exception of the USS Iowa, no longer remain.

(Vessels pictured: Hughes Mining Barge, Sea Shadow IX-529, SS Solon Turman, USS Hassayampa, USS Holland, USS Kawashiwi, USS Iowa, USS Meteor, USS Mispillion, USS Tulare, USS Witchita, USNS General Edwin D. Patrick, USNS General John Pope and USNS Northern Light)