The stern of the SS SOLON TURMAN is visible, third from the left, next to another cargo ship, the DAWN in this raft of ships awaiting their fates in Suisuin Bay, California. Photo by Shawn J. Dake c. 2009 (taken October 25, 2009)
The SOLON TURMAN under tow on it's last voyage to Mare Island on February 3, 2011. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr. c. 2011.
The steam-powered freighter SOLON TURMAN was towed from the California’s Suisuin Bay mothball fleet today to be cleansed and dismantled, but unlike previous ships that have gone to the scrapyards this one will not be making the long final voyage to Brownsville, Texas. Instead, the ship will travel about six miles to Mare Island, California as part of a new program designed to eliminate vessels from the Reserve Fleet in a more efficient manner. At it’s peak, the program should create over 100 jobs locally in the Vallejo area with most of the workers being rehired from the shuttered Mare Island Shipyard. Government estimates put the cost of towing a ship to Brownsville at $1.5 million while the same move locally should cost about $50,000. MARAD’s schedule calls for pulling a total of 20 ships from the Reserve Fleet by September 30, 2011, and having 57 vessels gone by the deadline of September 30, 2017. Several vessels including all of the “Victory” ships and the last two P2 troop transports, have already left California and been scrapped at Brownsville. This will be the first vessel to be broken up locally, followed next month by the SS PRESIDENT (ex PRESIDENT TYLER), a C4-S-1QB breakbulk cargo ship built for American President Lines in 1960. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “These contracts will help the local economy while advancing our mission of maintaining the fleet in a safe and environmentally sound manner.”
The former Lykes Line steamship SOLON TURMAN, built in 1961, has the distinction of being the first ship in decades to be scrapped in California under a new plan to recycle the ships at Mare Island rather than Brownsville, Texas.
The SS SOLON TURMAN was built in 1961 at the built at Bethlehem’s Sparrows point yard, Maryland for the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company of New Orleans, Louisiana. She served under their flag for 27 years before being traded to MARAD for a new vessel in 1988. The ship was maintained in ready reserve status until 2003 when it was downgraded to inactive reserve status. Once moved to non-retention status the vessels are doomed to scrap. The SOLON TURMAN has been idle in a raft of 12 ships nestled between the USNS H.H. HESS (T-AGS-38) (ex CANADIAN MAIL) and the Farrell Lines freighter SS DAWN (ex AFRICAN DAWN). Early today it was towed from Suisun Bay to Allied Defense Recycling. The company also goes by the name California Dry Dock Solutions. Under this new program, all work of cleaning, preparation and dismantling will be done in a single dry dock location.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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