The decommissioned USS Independence, the last of the Forrestal-class of aircraft carriers that plied the seas from the 1950s to the 1990s, will begin its final voyage to Brownsville later this year. International Shipbreaking Ltd., part of the EMR Group, won a U.S. Navy bid to tow the mothballed 61,000-ton “supercarrier” from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., to the Port of Brownsville for dismantling. Robert Berry, the company’s vice president, said the vessel will require two months of preparation for the 4 1/2-month tow from Bremerton around the tip of South America to Brownsville.
Preparations include the installation of towing gear and an alarm system that alerts the tug captain if the ship takes on water, plus a thorough inspection of the ship to make sure it’s safe for towing, though “the Navy keeps its vessels in pretty good condition,” Berry said.
“This is actually a good time of year to be towing … because we’ll be at the tip of South America in mid-summer;” he said. “It’s better weather.”
The USS Independence, the last Forrestal-class carrier to be built, was launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard on June 6, 1958, commissioned on Jan. 10, 1959, and decommissioned on Sept. 30, 1998. It was the fifth Navy ship to bear the name “Independence.”
The vessel should arrive in Brownsville in late February or early to mid-March, Berry said. This will be International Shipbreaking’s third supercarrier: The company took delivery of the former USS Constellation, a Kitty Hawk-class carrier, in January 2015 and the former USS Ranger, a Forrestal-class carrier, in July 2015.