National Defense Reserve Fleet

The National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) consists of "mothballed" ships, mostly merchant vessels, that can be activated within 20 to 120 days to provide shipping for the United States of America during national emergencies, either military or non-military, such as commercial shipping crises.

The NDRF is managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD). It is a different entity from the United States Navy reserve fleets, which consist largely of warships.

NDRF vessels are at the fleet sites at James River, Virginia (James River Reserve Fleet); Beaumont, Texas (Beaumont Reserve Fleet); and Suisun Bay, California (Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet); and at designated outported berths. Former anchorage sites included Stony Point, New York (Hudson River Reserve Fleet); Wilmington, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; Astoria, Oregon; and Olympia, Washington.

Through the 2010s, the oldest, most decrepit hulls at Suisun Bay will be stripped of toxic materials, then broken up in Texas, California, or Asia. Twenty of the most polluting mothball ships were slated for recycling by 2012, and another 32 by 2017.

At its peak in 1950, the NDRF had 2,277 ships in lay-up. In 2003, it had 274. In July 2007, it held 230 ships, primarily dry cargo ships with some tankers, military auxiliaries, and other types. As of January 2018, the number of ships was down to 98.[1][2]


The NDRF was established under Section 11 of the Merchant Ship Sales Act of 1946 to serve as a reserve of ships for national defense and national emergencies.

NDRF vessels were used in seven wars and crises. During the Korean War, 540 vessels were broken out to move military forces. During a worldwide tonnage shortfall in 1951–53, more than 600 ships were reactivated to carry coal to Northern Europe and grain to India. From 1955 through 1964, another 600 ships were used to store grain for the Department of Agriculture. Another 223 cargo ships and 29 tankers were activated during a tonnage shortfall after the Suez Canal was closed in 1956. During the Berlin Crisis of 1961, 18 vessels were activated and remained in service until 1970. Another 172 vessels were activated for the Vietnam War.

Ready Reserve Force

In 1976, a Ready Reserve Force component was established as a subset of the NDRF to provide rapid deployment of military equipment and later became known as the Ready Reserve Force, which numbers 72 vessels. These are crewed with a reduced crew but kept available for activation within four, five, ten or twenty days.[3]

An additional 28 ships are held under United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) custody for other Government agencies on a cost-reimbursable basis.


Vessels with military utility or logistic value are held in retention status and are in a preservation program that is designed to keep them in the same condition as when they enter the fleet. The internal spaces are dehumidified to slow the corrosion of metal and the growth of mold and mildew. DC power is distributed through anodes to the exterior underwater portions of the hull, creating an electric field that suppresses corrosion and preserves the surface of the hull. External painting and other cosmetic work are generally deferred since they do not affect the ability to activate and operate the vessel.[4]

MARAD is authorized as the government's disposal agent through the NDRF program for merchant type vessels equal to or greater than 1,500 gross tons. A state agency can file an application to request title to a vessel "as-is where-is" from the NDRF for the purpose of creating an artificial reef. A total of 51 vessels have been transferred to 10 states under the program including: Texas (12), Florida (10), North Carolina (7), Virginia (6), Alabama (5), Mississippi (5), Georgia (2), South Carolina (2), California (1), and New Jersey (1). Of the 132 non-retention vessels in the NDRF, there are 117 that are being prepared for disposal.

The NDRF program can give and lend historic artifacts to maritime-heritage organizations and transfer entire ships to memorial associations through special legislation.

Inactive naval ships of merchant design, including amphibious ships but not ships maintained in a mobilization status by MARAD for Military Sealift Command (MSC), may be laid up in the NDRF when overcrowded berthing conditions exist at a Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility. Battleships, cruisers, and aircraft carriers which have been stricken or those awaiting final disposition may be transferred to MARAD locations for berthing.

Initially, these ships will be transferred to MARAD for caretaking in accordance with the Economy Act of 1932.

Ships transferred to the NDRF may be retained in Navy Mobilization Plans and maintained by MARAD under priorities set by the Department of the Navy. If the Navy decides it no longer needs the ship, the Secretary of the Navy strikes the ship from the Naval Vessel Register and transfers the title to MARAD. When possible, MARAD gets first disposition rights, which allows it to convert merchant ships to the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) or to sell the ship for scrapping in connection with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, Sec. 508, and use the proceeds to buy more supply ships.[5]

Fleet reduction

The Suisun Bay location contained 324 ships in 1959.[6] Forty years later, the number was down by about 250, but pollutants had begun to accumulate in the area. Paint containing toxins such as lead, copper, zinc and barium had been flaking off many of the ships' hulls and superstructures. By June 2007, some 21 tons of toxic paint debris was estimated to have been shed from the ships, to settle in the bay sediment.[7] A further 65 tons of paint was estimated to be in danger of flaking off.[7]

David Matsuda, acting administrator of MARAD, said in March 2010 "We are moving expeditiously to remove the worst-polluting ships first and diligently moving to clean the rest."[8] Some 52 ships were identified as problematic, and were scheduled for removal and recycling by September 2017.[7] The process began in October 2009; as of October 2012, 36 ships had been removed and the disposal effort was ahead of schedule.[9] One such vessel, the SS Winthrop, the last Victory ship of the California mothball fleet, was towed in March 2010 to BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair dock to be cleaned of barnacles and plant matter before its final journey to ship breakers in Brownsville, Texas.[10] The hull cleaning was prescribed by the U.S. Coast Guard to prevent the spread of California species to other locations.[7] Some of the recycling work may be completed in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard—an application for such work is under permit review. Some $38 million in federal funds will be used to complete the dismantling project.

List of NDRF ships

NameDivisionHull No.Year BuiltDesignHome PortStatus
RRF - Tanker
PetersburgGulfAOT 91011963Stm/50KSan Francisco, CARRF
RRF - Roll-On/Roll-Off
Admiral W. M. CallaghanPacificAKR 10011967Gas TurbineAlameda, CARRF
AlgolPacificT-AKR 2871972Navy CargoSan Francisco, CARRF
AltairGulfT-AKR 2911973Navy CargoMarrerro, LARRF
AntaresAtlanticT-AKR 2941973Navy CargoBaltimore, MDRRF
BellatrixGulfT-AKR 2881973Navy CargoMarrerro, LARRF
Cape DecisionAtlanticAKR 50541973G1-Dsl/sCharleston, SCRRF
Cape DiamondAtlanticAKR 50551972G1-Dsl/FCharleston, SCRRF
Cape DomingoAtlanticAKR 50531973G1-Dsl/FCharleston, SCRRF
Cape DouglasAtlanticAKR 50521973G1-Dsl/FCharleston, SCRRF
Cape DucatoAtlanticAKR 50511972G1-Dsl/FCharleston, SCRRF
Cape EdmontAtlanticAKR 50691971G0-Dsl/SCharleston, SCRRF
Cape HenryPacificAKR 50671979G2-Dsl/JapanSan Francisco, CARRF
Cape HornPacificAKR 50681979G2-Dsl/NSan Francisco, CARRF
Cape HudsonPacificAKR 50661979G2-Dsl/NSan Francisco, CARRF
Cape InscriptionPacificAKR 50761976C7-S-95aLong Beach, CARRF
Cape IntrepidPacificT-AKR111976C7-S-95aTacoma, WARRF
Cape IsabelPacificAKR 50621976C7-S-95aLong Beach, CARRF
Cape IslandPacificT-AKR101977C7-S-95aTacoma, WARRF
Cape KennedyGulfAKR 50831979Dsl/NetherlandNew Orleans, LARRF
Cape KnoxGulfAKR 50821978Dsl/NetherlandNew Orleans, LARRF
Cape OrlandoPacificAKR 20441981Dsl/SwedenAlameda, CARRF
Cape RaceAtlanticAKR 99601977Dsl/JapanPortsmouth, VARRF
Cape RayAtlanticAKR 96791977Dsl/JapanPortsmouth, VARRF
Cape RiseAtlanticAKR 96781977Dsl/JapanPortsmouth, VARRF
Cape TaylorGulfAKR 1131977Dsl/JapanPort of Beaumont, TXRRF
Cape TexasGulfAKR 1121977Dsl/JapanPort of Beaumont, TXRRF
Cape TrinityGulfAKR 97111977Dsl/GermanyPort of Beaumont, TXRRF
Cape VictoryGulfAKR 97011984Dsl/ItalyMLF, Orange, TXRRF
Cape VincentGulfAKR 96661984Dsl/ItalyMLF, Orange, TXRRF
Cape WashingtonAtlanticAKR 99611982Dsl/PolandBaltimore, MDRRF
Cape WrathAtlanticAKR 99621982Dsl/PolandBaltimore, MDRRF
CapellaPacificT-AKR 2931972Navy CargoSan Francisco, CARRF
DenebolaAtlanticT-AKR 2891973Navy CargoBaltimore, MDRRF
PolluxGulfT-AKR 2901973Navy CargoMLF, Orange, TXRRF
RegulusGulfT-AKR 2921972Navy CargoMLF, Orange, TXRRF
RRF - Crane Ship
Cornhusker StateAtlanticT-ACS 61969C5-S-MA73cNewport News, VARRF
Flickertail StateAtlanticT-ACS 51967C5-S-MA73cNewport News, VARRF
Gem StatePacificT-ACS 21966C6-S-MA1qdAlameda, CARRF
Gopher StateAtlanticT-ACS41972C5-S-MA73cNewport News, VARRF
Grand Canyon StatePacificT-ACS 31965C6-s-MA1qdAlameda, CARRF
Keystone StatePacificT-ACS 11966C6-S-MA1qdAlameda, CARRF
RRF - Break Bulk
CurtissPacificT-AVB 41969C5-S-78aSan Diego, CARRF
WrightAtlanticT-AVB 31970C5-S-78aPhiladelphia, PARRF
RRF - Barge Ship
Cape MohicanPacificAKR 50651973C8-S-82aOakland, CARRF
Retention - Tanker
Paul BuckGulfT-AOT 11221985ChampionBRF, Beaumont, TXInterim Hold
Richard G. MatthiesenGulfT-AOT 11241985ChampionBRF, Beaumont, TXMilitarily Useful
Samuel L. CobbGulfT-AOT 11231985ChampionBRF, Beaumont, TXInterim Hold
Retention - Passenger Ship
Empire StateAtlanticTAP 10011962S5-S-MA1uaFt. Schuyler, NYSchool Ship
Golden BearPacificT-AGS 391971S4-M-MA154aVallejo, CASchool Ship
KennedyAtlanticTAK 50591967S5-S-MA66bBuzzards Bay, MASchool Ship
State of MaineAtlanticT-AGS 401989S4-M-MA154bCastine, MESchool Ship
Retention - Other
FB-62 (APL BARGE)PacificAPL-241944Barracks CRFSBRF, Suisun Bay, CAFleet Support
Freedom Star (R)Atlantic79253141981Research VesselPiney Point, MDSchool Ship
Kings PointerAtlantic79253021981ResearchKings Point, NYSchool Ship
Pacific CollectorPacificT-AGS 291970S3-M-MA-153cPortland, OROther Agency Use
Pacific TrackerPacificMA #1441965S6-S-MA60ePortland, OROther Agency Use
Retention - Military
General RudderGulfT-AGOS 21984Navy OcnSurvGalveston, TXSchool Ship
State of MichiganGulfT-AGOS 61985Navy OcnSurvTraverse City, MISchool Ship
TriumphPacificT-AGOS 41984Navy OcnSurvSBRF, Suisun Bay, CALogistics Support
Retention - Crane Ship
Diamond StateGulfT-ACS 71960C6-S-MA1xbBRF, Beaumont, TXLogistics Support
Green Mountain StatePacificT-ACS 91965C6-S-MA60dSBRF, Suisun Bay, CALogistics Support
Retention - Break Bulk
Cape AnnAtlanticAK 50091962C4-S-58aJRRF, James River, VATraining Use
Cape BoverPacificAK 50571966C4-S-66aSBRF, Suisun Bay, CALogistics Support
Cape ChalmersAtlanticAK 50361963C3-S-37cCharleston, SCTraining Use
Cape GireadeauPacificAK 20391968C5-S-75aSBRF, Suisun Bay, CALogistics Support
Cape JacobPacificTAK 50291961C4-S-1uSBRF, Suisun Bay, CALogistics Support
Cape JubyAtlanticTAK 50771962C4-S-1uJRRF, James River, VALogistics Support
Cape NomeAtlanticAK 10141969C5-S-78aJRRF, James River, VALogistics Support
Del MonteAtlanticMA 2001968C3-S-76aLittle Creek, VATraining Use
SavannahAtlantic551962P2-N1-MA40aBaltimore, MDNational Register
Retention - Barge Ship
Cape FarewellGulfAK 50731973C9-S-81dBRF, Beaumont, TXMilitarily Useful
Cape FearPacificAK 50611971C8-S-81bSBRF, Suisun Bay, CALogistics Support
Cape FlatteryGulfAK 50701973C9-S-81dBRF, Beaumont, TXMilitarily Useful
Cape MendocinGulfAKR 50641972C8-S-82aBRF, Beaumont, TXLogistics Support
Non-retention - Tanker
ChesapeakeGulfAOT 50841964Stm/50KBRF, Beaumont, TXStripping
Non-retention - Roll-On/Roll-Off
Cape LobosGulfAKR 50781972Dsl/CanadaBRF, Beaumont, TXDisposal
Non-retention - Other
HarknessAtlanticT-AGS 321967S4-M-MA153bBrownsville, TXDisposal
Non-retention - Military
Observation IslandGulfT-AGM 281954C4-S-1aBRF, Beaumont, TXDisposal
Simon LakeAtlanticAS-331964Sub TenderJRRF, James River, WADisposal
SumnerGulfT-AGS 611992Navy OcnSurvBRF, Beaumont, TXDisposal
TripoliGulfLPH-101966Amphib, HeloBRF, Beaumont, TXDisposal
Non-retention - Crane Ship
Equality StateGulfT-ACS 81962C6-S-MA1xbBRF, Beaumont, TXDisposal
Non-retention - Break Bulk
Cape AlavaAtlanticAK 50121962C4-S-58aJRRF, James River, VADisposal
Cape AlexanderAtlanticAK 50101962C4-S-58aJRRF, James River, VADisposal
Cape ArchwayAtlanticAK 50111963C4-S-58aJRRF, James River, VADisposal
Cape AvinoffAtlanticAK 50131963C4-S-58aJRRF, James River, VAStripping
Cape BordaPacificAK 50581967C4-S-66aBrownsville, TXDisposal
Cape BretonPacificAK 50561967C4-S-66aBrownsville, TXDisposal
Cape GibsonGulfAK 50511968C5-S-75aBRF, Beaumont, TXDisposal
Cape JohnsonAtlanticTAK 50751962C4-S-1uBrownsville, TXDisposal
Non-retention - Barge Ship
Cape FloridaGulfAK 50711971C8-S-81BBRF, Beaumont, TXStripping
Custody - Other
Bravante IXGulfSV 2902014Offshore SupplyBRF, Beaumont, TXTitle XI
IrisPacificWLB 3951943Buoy TenderSBRF, Suisun Bay, CAUSCG
PlanetreePacificWLB 3071943Buoy TenderSBRF, Suisun Bay, CAUSCG
Custody - Military
NassauGulfLHA-41979Amphib, HeloBRF, Beaumont, TXNavy
Custody - Barge
Army BargesGulfNo Number2009BargeBRF, Beaumont, TXArmy
  • Current as of January 2018[1][2]

See also


  1. "NDRF Inventory" (PDF). December 31, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  2. "MARAD inventory". Retrieved February 24, 2019. (Current as of September 2018 with year-end summaries)
  3. "Ship Inventory: Ready Reserve Force Ships". Military Sealift Command. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  4. "Mothballing the US Navy after WWII". March 27, 2016.
  5. "National Defense Reserve Fleet". Naval Vessel Register. Archived from the original on December 25, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  6. "Editorial: Settlement on rotting ships a good one". InsideBayArea. The Oakland Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
  7. Peele, Thomas (July 8, 2007). "State demands toxic paint from ships be cleaned". InsideBayArea. The Oakland Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
  8. Anthony, Laura (March 31, 2010). "Feds to remove toxic ships from Suisun Bay". ABC KGO-TV Local News. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
  9. "U.S. Transportation Secretary Visits Suisun Bay to Celebrate Surpassing Goal in Recycling of Obsolete Vessels". Maritime Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. October 12, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  10. York, Jessica A. (March 18, 2010). "Last of WWII Victory ships to be removed from Suisun Bay". Vallejo Times-Herald. The MediaNewsGroup. Retrieved April 5, 2010.

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