Twenty five years ago, the US Navy contracted to build two fleet oilers, the USNS Bejanmin Isherwood and the USNS Henry Eckford. The Navy spent at least $300 million dollars on their construction. Due to shipyard defaults and various legal wranglings, the ships were never completed and never went into service. Now both ships are on their way to the scrap yards, having never spent a single day in operation.
These are not high-tech warships. They are simple oil tankers, specifically Henry J. Kaiser Class Fleet Replenishment Oilers, of which 16 had already been built. Militarily contracting is notoriously wasteful, but this may set a new low.
Two never-finished Navy ships head to scrap heap
They are the two ships no one wanted, almost constantly embroiled in one dispute or another for the past 25 years. The two Navy behemoths have never gone on a mission, were never even completed, yet they cost taxpayers at least $300 million.
Now the vessels, the Benjamin Isherwood and the Henry Eckford, are destined to leave Virginia waters for good and be scrapped at a Texas salvage yard, with no money coming back to the U.S. Treasury.
Once the two Navy oilers have departed, “it will close one of the saddest chapters in American shipbuilding and for that matter, federal fiduciary folly,” wrote Joseph Keefe, a global maritime commentator, this week on the website MaritimeProfessional.com.