Coming Soon: New Navy Shipwrecks

It’s one thing to say there will be shipwrecks in the future. It’s another to say three inactive Navy warships– Kilauea, Niagara Falls and Concord–will be sent to a watery grave off Hawaii later this month. Here’s the scoop:

The US Navy recently announced that it will resume sinking old warships for target practice. The program, called Sinkex, was put on hold in 2012 after conservation groups sued the Navy claiming that the sunken ships pollute the waters. Unsurprisingly Sinkex had gone on for years with minimal oversight. Since 1999, the EPA required the Navy to document the toxic waste, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) left on the doomed ships. Let’s just say some outside groups have questioned how rigorous this self reporting was. But like efforts to protect whales from Navy sonar, this reasonable effort by environmentalists to protect our oceans failed to trump “national security.” The Navy says that the practice of forcibly sinking sinks provides valuable live-fire training for soldiers. The ships can be targeted from the air, ocean’s surface or underwater, giving ship designers useful information about how to build better and stronger ships.

Damn the pollution. Full speed ahead!

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2 Comments

Filed under Announcement, Wrecks in the News

2 responses to “Coming Soon: New Navy Shipwrecks

  1. starbuck5250

    ‘Sinkex’ isn’t an official program name like RIMPAC, it’s Navy jargon combined with gallows humour. Each ship sunk is a separate sinkex. There isn’t a defined number of ships to be sunk as targets, but the annual number is usually very small. Most decommissioned Navy vessels go into the inactive reserve fleet for some time. After sitting ‘in mothballs’ for years, some are chosen to be inactivated. Most of these go to the ship breakers, but a few are made into targets. In either case, the Navy demilitarises them and cleans them of gross pollutants. It’s not perfect, but they aren’t as casual about it today as they were in the 1950s. A quick read on these ghost ships can be had at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_reserve_fleets

    • Many thanks for the clarification! Sinking old boats can do a lot of good–artificial reefs, eco-tourism, &c.–but it needs to be done on the up-and-up. It’s not clear if that’s the case here. Seems like a outside oversight of the Sinkex is reasonable. And who’s definition of “gross pollutants” defines what gets removed and what gets flushed down the ocean sink?

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