U.S. Navy Ships Get Ready for Transatlantic Trip, Toxics and All

Thirteen is not a lucky number, and many fear that bad luck could trail in the wake of 13 decrepit and pollution-laden U.S. ships that are set to embark on a 4,500-mile voyage from Virginia to the British region of Teesside.* The ships are part of the U.S. Navy’s “ghost fleet,” a flotilla of 120 aging vessels with toxic loads including asbestos, oil, and PCBs. For $17 million, a British company, AbleUK, has agreed to transport the ships across the Atlantic for dismantling, despite warnings from environmentalists and salvage experts that the vessels are in no condition to make such a journey. Experts fear the ships will begin to break up en route, leaking their toxic cargos into the sea. “They’re leaking and listing, and that’s just sitting at anchor in a river,” said Tim Mullane of Virginia-based Dominion Maritime. “If they get to sea, some will definitely start to break up. A pollution slick will follow them all the way across the Atlantic.”