Presentation Abstract

Title: Preparation of Decommissioned Ships for Use as Artificial Marine Habitats

Authors: Marc J. Plisko, John W. Spencer

Presented at: AIHce 2002, San Diego, CA

The use of decommissioned ships and other discarded products of industry for artificial marine habitats is ever growing. From the sinking of obsolete subway cars off of the New Jersey coast to the scuttling of ex-Navy ships in California and Florida, the benefits to local marine ecosystems are numerous. However many potential safety, health, and environmental liabilities can adversely impact not only the marine environment but also the workers who prepare such artificial reefs.

Many obsolete vessels sought as candidates for reefing were constructed with materials containing solid and liquid PCB’s, heavy metals, lead-based paint, asbestos-containing materials, and in some cases, radioactive materials. Other potential environmental hazards including but not limited to oils and fuels, residual cargo, and contaminated bilge water must also be managed.

The successful preparation of a ship for an artificial marine habitat must be carefully planned and executed in order to avoid unnecessary exposure of shipboard personnel to regulated materials and to avoid creating a contamination pathway to the marine environment. A comprehensive safety, health, and environmental plan must be developed and successfully implemented to address OSHA, EPA, Coast Guard, and local regulatory requirements.

The safety and environmental management plans described herein were successfully developed and implemented during the recent preparation of a decommissioned US Navy ship for use as an artificial marine habitat. The project was hailed as a safety and environmental success by several governmental agencies, project investors, and those who prepared and implemented the plans.

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