BEAUMONT, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has completed contractual negotiations for the Texas Clipper to become the first major addition to the department’s Ships-to-Reefs program in more than 30 years. In early spring 2007, the clipper will be sunk 17 nautical miles off the southern coast of Texas to become an artificial reef.
The department’s Texas Artificial Reef Program has worked for more than 10 years with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to secure title to the Texas Clipper, a former WWII troop transport ship, cruise liner and training vessel for the Texas A&M University Maritime Academy.
“We are very pleased to announce that as of today, the Texas Clipper project is officially underway,” said Dale Shively, TPWD artificial reef program coordinator, on Oct. 11.
Shively said a Notice-to-Proceed has been issued to Resolve Marine Services, Inc. of Port Everglades, Florida to begin preparations to tow the ship from the MARAD Reserve Fleet dock in Beaumont to Brownsville for cleaning and final preparations. The transfer of the title from MARAD to the State of Texas is set to occur once towing commences from Beaumont.
Hazardous materials remediation (cleaning) and hull modifications will be performed by ESCO Marine of Brownsville, a subcontractor for Resolve Marine Services. The process of preparing the ship for reefing could take four to six months.
Towing will begin in late October or early November and the Texas Clipper will move slowly and deliberately out of Sabine Pass, through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Brazos Santiago pass. She will be moored at ESCO Marine’s facility in Brownsville, cleaned of all environmental hazards and structurally modified to promote safe diving.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the TPWD cleanup plan for the ship, but approval for sinking will be made after a final inspection by EPA.
In early 2007, she will be towed to a permitted reef site 17 nautical miles off the southern coast of Texas near South Padre Island to become an artificial reef.
The U.S.T.S. Texas Clipper is a 473-foot decommissioned Texas Maritime Training Academy ship that served students and sea cadets at Texas A&M University at Galveston from 1965-1996. She traveled the world’s oceans and students spent countless weeks on her decks and in her many cabins.
The Texas Clipper was originally commissioned in 1944 as the U.S.S. Queens, a troop transport ship that served in World War II. She ferried fresh troops into battle and shuttled the wounded from Iwo Jima and was part of the American occupation at Sasebo, Japan. She was decommissioned in 1946.
From 1948 to 1958, she was commissioned the S.S. Excambion and served as one of the post-war four aces for American Export Lines. As a cruise liner, she sailed to ports in the Mediterranean after her many Atlantic crossings.
The TPWD Ships-to-Reefs program uses the sinking of large obsolete ships to create artificial reefs, adding a unique dimension to the Texas Artificial Reef Program. Ships-to-Reefs efforts began in the mid 1970s through the efforts of the Texas Coastal and Marine Council with the reefing of 12 Liberty Ships at six sites along the Texas coast.
These were some of the ships that survived enemy sinking attempts during World War II. Since that time, many large ships have been scrapped with relatively few becoming artificial reefs.
Recently, the U.S. Maritime Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have drafted guidelines for coastal states to follow in the preparation of obsolete ships for their respective artificial reef programs. Texas will continue to look for opportunities to acquire suitable ships for its offshore waters.
For more information about Ships-to-Reefs or the Texas Artificial Reef Program, see the TPWD Web site.
- Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide