It has been a troop carrier, a missile-tracking ship, and a starred in a Hollywood movie. Now the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg will become an artificial reef off Key West, Fla.
Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton approved the transfer of the Vandenberg to the state of Florida, which plans to turn the 63-year old vessel into an artificial reef later this year. “Reefing is an excellent way to dispose of our obsolete ships,” said Connaughton. "It is good for the economy, good for the environment, and a great deal for U.S. taxpayers.”
The approval clears the way for the ship to be cleaned and sunk for a reef. The Vandenberg will join other ships of the Maritime Administration’s National Defense Reserve
Fleet being used in the Maritime Administration's Artificial Reefing Program: the Texas Clipper I, soon to be sunk on the Texas Gulf Coast, and the Spiegel Grove, sunk off Florida
The Vandenberg is currently at the James River Reserve Fleet site. Within the next few weeks, it will be towed from the site to Colonna’s Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., where it will have all hazardous materials removed from it in preparation for reefing prior to its departure for sinking. The Maritime Administration is contributing $1.25m toward the cost of preparing the ship for reefing.
The Vandenberg was constructed in 1943, as the troop ship General Harry S. Taylor. In 1963, it was refitted as a missile-tracking ship and given its unusual superstructure and present name. In 2000, the ship was featured in the Hollywood film Virus, and still carries the Russian lettering and ornate paint scheme given to it for that role.
The Maritime Administration maintains the National Defense Reserve Fleet as a reserve of ships for defense and national emergencies. The James River Reserve Fleet at Fort Eustis, Va., is one of three sites where ships are maintained. When ships are no longer considered useful for defense or aid missions, the Maritime Administration arranges for their responsible disposal.