The decommissioning and dismantlement of the STURGIS barge, now free of radioactive contamination and a former nuclear power reactor, was effectively completed last week, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
International Shipbreaking Ltd. has been sectioning the vessel at its Brownsville, Texas, facility since January. As work has proceeded, more of the STURGIS has been moved from the water onto a dock platform. The vessel was fully removed from the water around March 13 for the “final cut,” the Army Corps said in a March 15 update on the project.
The vessel was cut into dozens of sections, from stern to bow, after shipbreaking began. “A majority of the sectioning was done prior to the STURGIS being moved into the graving cradle. Once a majority of the vessel had been cut apart, the STURGIS was moved into the graving cradle. Approximately 30-40 sections were cut once she was in the graving cradle” last week, Brenda Barber, project manager for the Army Corps Baltimore District’s Environmental and Munitions Design Center, said by email this week
The remaining work encompasses removal and disposal of asbestos, lead-based paint, and other waste materials from the remaining sections of the barge; preparing the last pieces of the STURGIS for recycling; and publishing reports on project closure and the history of the vessel.
Waste disposal and recycling are expected to be completed in about 30 days, according to Barber.
International Shipbreaking received its $1.6 million contract in May 2018. It completed the work on budget and two weeks ahead of schedule, Barber said.
The STURGIS started life as a World War II Liberty Ship, then was equipped with a nuclear power reactor and deployed to Panama from 1968 to 1976. It was towed to the Port of Galveston, Texas, in April 2015 for decommissioning. APTIM Federal Services decommissioned the vessel, including removal of the MH-1A reactor and remediation of radioactive contamination.