A reserve fleet is a group of ships and other types of maritime vessels that are on standby for various occasions. Some refer to these fleets as being in mothballs, and others call them ghost fleets. When these fleets are needed, they can often be ready within months. Sometimes, however, the vessels in the fleets are so old that they may need to be disposed of.
Having a reserve fleet on standby can often save a nation money and time in the event of an emergency. For instance, instead of having to buy or build new vessels, they can activate one or more reserve fleets. These fleets can usually be active in anywhere from a few weeks to six months after the order is received.
Although a reserve fleet is not active, it still usually requires a small crew, known as a skeleton crew, to maintain each vessel. This crew keeps the ships usable in case of an emergency. One of the major duties of a skeleton crew is running the bilge pumps. This will help protect the hull from corroding and keep the vessel afloat.
There are often a number of types of marine vessels in a reserve fleet. Naval vessels, such as aircraft carriers and battleships, are often stored in military reserve fleets. These ships are usually only brought out in times of war. In the United States, for example, reserve fleets have been activated during the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and the Persian Gulf war.
Other situations may also call for a reserve fleet. The National Defense Reserve Fleet in the United States, for example, has a number of reserve fleets. Although these have been used during wartime, many of the ships in these fleets are merchant vessels. During a few major shipping crises, these vessels have been called upon to deliver goods all around the world.
Many of the vessels in a reserve fleet will often become unusable or obsolete over time. Sometimes they are damaged beyond repair after decades of being in the water. Other times, necessary parts for the vessels can not be found or produced, since they are so old.
Many vessels in reserve fleets around the world have been or are being dismantled for scrap. Instead of wasting a usable maritime vessel, some countries will sell it to another country or large company. Other ships are turned into museums, and some are even sunk deliberately to create artificial reefs to promote marine life. One of the largest artificial reefs was created off the shore of Florida when an aircraft carrier, USS Orinskany, was sunk.