The Brownsville Herald – No small scraps

(Written by Carlos Rodriguez)

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23 July 2014 - The modernization of the U.S. Navy’s military ship fleet is proving lucrative for local ship-breaking operations.

Navy officials recently awarded the nation’s largest ship-breaking contract to a local company. International Shipbreaking Ltd. has been commissioned to dismantle the USS Constellation, a Kitty Hawk “supercarrier” class aircraft carrier. The 1,100-foot, 62,000-ton vessel is scheduled to begin its final journey from Washington state to Brownsville at the end of this month. The trip is expected to take more than three months, and “Connie,” as she’s known, should arrive at the local port near year’s end.

This is the third big military ship-breaking contract to come to the port this year. The USS Forrestal, the U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier, arrived in Brownsville in February and is being dismantled by All Star Metals. The USS Saratoga, a Lexington-class aircraft carrier, should arrive soon, and ESCO Marine will begin tearing it apart.

Because of its size and the time and cost involved in bringing the Constellation to Brownsville — it will be towed from the northwest U.S. coast around the southern tip of South America — the Navy contract pays International Shipbreaking $3,000. Most other jobs, including the other two at the local port, sell the ships to the dismantlers for one cent; the money is made selling the many tons of scrap metal once they’re broken apart.

Apparently, past concerns that allowing one or more new ship-breaking companies to move into this area might hurt those already here don’t seem to have proven true. If anything, the expansion has had the opposite effect, by establishing the Port of Brownsville as a recognizable center of dismantling operations. It’s now being called the ship-breaking capital of the United States. In addition, it also has other salvage operations. Port Director Eddie Campirano has said such companies pay more than a half-million dollars in leases alone.

Those looking for salvage business, in addition to our Defense Department, could well look first to South Texas, knowing that several businesses here can do the work.

With a local economy that is dominated by retail and agriculture, any industrial market, including ship-breaking and salvage, adds add diversity that can help the area withstand low periods in one or more areas of the economy.

Such diversity also creates greater job opportunities for Rio Grande Valley residents.

We hope the attention our ship breakers are drawing to the area also attracts other industrial operations to the area.