Two never-used Navy ships head to scrapyard

I’m not sure precisely what lesson there is to be learned from this, other than it being an example of precisely how wrong things can go when a massive bureaucracy’s thousands of left hands lose track of what its thousands of right hands are doing. But you won’t need many guesses as to who gets stuck with the bill.

Two ships ordered for the Navy back when Ronny was still president are on their way to be converted into razor blades this year. That, in itself, is not all that unusual. The “ghost fleets” are periodically trimmed in this fashion. The startling aspect of this story is that these ship never saw a single day of service.

Embroiled by legal battles for more than 25 years, two U.S. Navy ships are finally headed to the scrap heap without ever having sailed and despite the fact that they’re almost completely finished.

According to Hampton Roads, the USNS Bejamin Isherwood and the USNS Henry Eckford were commissioned in 1985 at the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Co. to carry fuel to the Navy’s fleet around the globe.

When the company defaulted on its Navy contract in 1989 the 660-foot ships were sent to Florida for completion, but cost disputes terminated that contract in 1993.

Since then, the vessels have sat 95 and 84 percent complete at the mouth of the James River as part of the mothballed ghost fleet.

Since the breakdown of the process in 1993 the United States has made a few efforts to salvage something out of this debacle. They tried selling the vessels off to a private contractor to finish them and sell them to a NATO ally. Unfortunately, these are fuel tankers and they were designed with a single hull. Since the project began the rules have changed and all such ships must be double hulled for anyone to put them in service, so there are no takers.

Now they will be gutted and torn apart for scrap. So will we get back the unspecified millions of dollars which we’ve already sunk into the project? If you think so, I assume you’re new to American politics. No, we actually paid a U.K. company an additional $10M to take them off our hands (along with two other ghost fleet ships) and salvage them for materials.

Careless planning and bureaucratic mismanagement. And you’re getting stuck with the bill.

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