Vallejo Mare Island Ship Recycling Facility Opens

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Mothball ship, Suisun Bay, Vallejo, Mare Island, Solon Thurman

A tugboat manuevers the SS Solon Turman on its way from Suisun Bay to Mare Island in Vallejo, February 3, 2011. (Jeff Bell/CBS)

VALLEJO (BCN) – A ship recycling facility opened in Vallejo Friday morning, making it the first reprocessing center on the West Coast.

U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda and U.S. Congressman George Miller, D-Martinez, welcomed Allied Defense Recycling with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The facility previously housed the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which has been out of operation since 1996, according to Allied Defense Recycling spokeswoman Lily Smith.

“This effort is 10 years in the making,” Smith said. “We wanted to bring this piece of history back to Vallejo. It’s part of their identity.”

Smith said the facility’s first job would be the SS Solon Turman, a ship from the Suisun Reserve Fleet.

The Solon Turman is 592 feet long and weighs more than 9,500 tons, she said.

The facility plans to expedite the cleanup of Suisun Bay, which currently houses more than 50 “mothball Navy ships,” Smith said.

“These are very toxic ships, full of asbestos and other harmful materials,” she said. “The sooner that we can get the ships out of the water, the better.”

Smith said the new facility would be able to scrap the vessels in half the time it would take a normal recycling center, allowing more ships and local employees to go through Allied Defense Recycling.

“At our peak, we could have up to 120 local workers working on projects,” she said.

The metal recovered from the retired vessels will be sold between states and overseas, Smith said.

“There is no telling where they could end up,” she said.

Allied Defense Recycling is one of seven ship-recycling centers in the country, with the other six residing in Texas and coastal areas on the East Coast.

Prior to the center’s grand opening at Mare Island, vessels in need of recycling were shipped to Texas. The trip cost about $1.5 million per ship and used 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel, Smith said.

In addition to recycling naval ships, Smith said that the facility would work on privately-owned vessels upon request.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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