BROWNSVILLE – The USS Independence completed its final voyage of 16,000 miles after arriving at the Port of Brownsville Thursday, June 1, 2017. However, the decommissioned aircraft carrier’s service is far from over as some of its steel will be used in the construction of new Navy vessels.
“We recognize that this is a sentimental time for many. Some may view this as an ending, for others it’s a new beginning,” said John Wood, Brownsville Navigation District chairman, at a special ceremony held by International Shipbreaking Ltd. at Isla Blanca Park at South Padre Island. “In her new role, the USS Independence will provide a hopeful future for hundreds of local men and women. Through the jobs created through her repurposing, she will live on, and continue to serve.”
ISL won the Navy bid to recycle the 60,000-ton vessel, the last of the Forrestal-class of “supercarriers.” This will be the third vessel of its kind to be recycled by the company, which is part of the EMR Group. ISL lifted the last piece of the former USS Constellation out of the water on May 10, making way for the arrival of the USS Independence.
“Preparations at the Brownsville yard are complete and the team is excited for her arrival,” said Chris Green, ISL president, days before the vessel’s arrival. “We take great pride in having been awarded another US Navy ship recycling contract to dismantle this historic vessel in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”
The carrier will undergo an extensive dismantling and recycling process expected to take around a year and a half to complete and will generate about 160 jobs locally, added Robert Berry, vice president of ISL.
The Independence is expected to produce about 51,000 tons of copper, brass, steel, armored plate and other metals. Berry said that the scrap metal will end up in steel mills in Mexico and other parts of the world.
However, the armored plate, a high-end type of hardened steel, will be sent to the East Coast where it will eventually end up as part of another aircraft carrier.
“Between 14,000 to 19,000 tons of armored plate will all go to Pennsylvania. That steel will be melted down and made into armor for the next vessel the Navy will build,” added Berry.
“Dismantling such a large vessel is an enormous undertaking, but it’s important to remember that the carriers themselves have a significant sentimental meaning for the people who were stationed on them throughout their life,” Green said.
The Independence was home to tens of thousands of veterans throughout its 39-years of service, until it was decommissioned in 1998.