Two never-used Navy “ghost ships” sent for scrap

In the era of massive belt-tightening budget cuts, the story of two never-completed, unused Navy ships now being sent to the scrap heap after costing U.S. taxpayers $300 million is a case study in Pentagon waste.

Requisitioned by the U.S. Navy in 1985, the two oil-hauling ships, the Benjamin Isherwood and the Henry Eckford, "have never gone on a mission, were never even completed, yet they cost taxpayers at least $300 million," the Virginia-Pilot's Scott Harper reports.

Now the "ghost ships" are headed from their dock on the James River in Virginia to a Texas scrap yard to be dismantled, Harrop writes. And there's one more catch--the United States awarded a $10 million contract to dismantle four ships, including the Eckford and the Isherwood, to a UK firm, so no money from the reclamation will return to the United States.

You can watch a WUSA newscast about the ships below:

The two vessels were part of a $567 million request for three oilers put out by the Navy, Harrop writes. But the builder, Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Co. in Philadelphia, defaulted on the contract in 1989. A Florida firm contracted to finish the ships cancelled the contract over price disputes in 1993. The ships are now being scrapped, rather than refurbished, because they do not meet modern specs. "[I]t will close one of the saddest chapters in American shipbuilding and for that matter, federal fiduciary folly," writes global maritime commentator Joseph Keefe, Harrop notes.

Harrop has the full story of the ship's long, unfinished fate over at the Virginia-Pilot.