Farewell, MARAD?

Farewell, MARAD?

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) is seeking bids for a new berthing port for a fleet of ships that are currently docked at Alameda Point.

City officials learned MARAD was seeking bids in July, according to reports. Officials were not consulted by MARAD before they began seeking bids. MARAD operates five ships (Gem State, Keystone State, Grand Canyon State, Cape Orlando and Admiral Callaghan) that are currently docked at Alameda Point.

If MARAD were to leave Alameda Point, they would be leaving six years before their 20-year lease agreement ends. According to the 2006 lease agreement, MARAD must give the city a 90-day notice before termination of the agreement. The City and MARAD revised the 20-year agreement in 2017 with the remaining years a series of one-year lease agreements that would last until 2026, according to reports.

MARAD is seeking a new home for the vessels because the federal government does not want to pay the estimated $10 million cost of dredging needed so the vessels can move freely from their dock, according to reports. MARAD is responsible for paying the dredging costs, while the city of Alameda is responsible for hiring the company.

In November 2017, dredging the area cost about $4.5 million. City officials said the price tag to dredge the area now is estimated between $8 to $10 million. City officials said the City Council would be willing to carry some of the financial burden of dredging the area if the ships were to remain at Alameda Point.

MARAD currently pays the city $725 per ship docked at Alameda Point per day, which comes to about $1.3 million a year in rent to the city. The city uses the money to help with maintenance costs at Alameda Point. At the beginning of the agreement, MARAD paid the city about $2.4 million in annual rent. MARAD used to dock seven vessels at Alameda Point before two larger vessels were removed from the pier.

MARAD, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, operates the five ships at anchor at the edge of the bay near the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum. The MARAD vessels operate three piers at the site. The five ships are among 46 vessels that make up the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) docked at coastal spots across the country, including in Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Maryland.

The RRF is a subset of vessels within MARAD’s National Defense Reserve Fleet ready to support the rapid worldwide deployment of U.S. military forces. As a key element of Department of Defense, the RRF primarily supports transport of Army and Marine Corps unit equipment, combat support equipment and initial resupply during critical surge periods, according to the MARAD website. RRF ships also assist with humanitarian relief and transporting supplies after a natural disaster.