Byline: Associated Press/Jason Dearen and Oskar Garcia
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — The U.S. Navy is resuming its practice of using old warships for target practice and sinking them in U.S. coastal waters, after a nearly two-year moratorium spurred by environmental and cost concerns.
Later this month, three inactive vessels — Kilauea, Niagara Falls and Concord — will be sent to a watery grave off Hawaii by torpedoes, bombs and other ordnance during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises.
The military quietly lifted the moratorium on Sinkex, short for sinking exercises, last year after a review of the requirements, costs, benefits and environmental impacts of the program, the Navy said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Conservation groups argued that the ghost ships should instead be recycled at a ship-breaking facility. Concerns about the long-lasting effects of toxic pollutants on board the ships spurred a lawsuit by those groups to force the Environmental Protection Agency to better catalog and regulate Sinkex. The case, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is ongoing.
The Navy said Sinkex offers valuable live-fire training for times of war and provides clean vessels for at-sea, live-fire exercises. The ships can be targeted from the air, ocean’s surface or underwater, with the results aiding the acquisition, planning and design of future vessel classes and systems, the Navy said.
Vice Adm. Gerald Beaman, commander of the combined task force running the exercises, said July 2 that each ship will be stripped of PCBs and other contaminants, such as asbestos, as required by the Navy’s agreement with EPA.
RIMPAC, which lasts for five weeks, features training exercises for thousands of military personnel from 22 nations.