Murphy’s Law: Back To The Breakers


The U.S. Navy is going back to the breakers (where ships are broken up for scrap). Four retired aircraft carriers (USS Constellation, USS Forrestal, USS Independence and USS Saratoga) are to be scrapped instead of sunk, or simply allowed to rust away while tied up. These ships were taken out of service between 1993-2003, and have been waiting since then while a decision was made on their disposition.

For over a decade, sending warships to the scrap yard was not considered a viable alternative. It’s all about pollution, bad press and cost.

For thousands of years, unneeded ships were “sent to the breakers” (a shipyard that broke the ship up for scrap and reusable parts). However, this is now considered environmentally harmful if done the old fashioned way (as it is still done in countries like India), and too expensive if it is done in an environmentally (and politically) acceptable way. In other words, it could cost more scrap warships than you would recover from the value of the recycled metals.

Another use for retired ships is as museum ships. Two years ago, the U.S. Navy retired its last non-nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy. The navy offered the ship to any government or non-profit organization that wants to maintain it as a museum ship. The navy is still waiting for a response. Entering service in 1968, the Kennedy is 321 meters (1052 feet) long and displaces 82,000 tons. It would be the largest museum ship ever. The ship is currently docked in Philadelphia, and there is much enthusiasm in Boston for taking the carrier, named after a native son, and establishing a museum ship. The big problem, for whoever takes the ship, is money. Lots of money. Hundreds of millions to outfit the ship as a museum and maintain it.

Murphy’s Law: Back To The Breakers


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