What is a reserve fleet

A reserve fleet is a collection of naval vessels that are kept in a designated area, and adopt a ‘stand by’ or ‘reserve’ status, in the event the vessels are later required. Typically, the vessels in a reserve fleet will not be used on a regular basis, but will be sea worthy and capable of being used for their purpose when required. Reserve fleets are usually partially or fully decommissioned and will be maintained for upkeep to ensure each vessel is equipped to return to service where necessary.

Explanation of a reserve fleet

Vessels that are placed into a reserve fleet or which are fully decommissioned will have all onboard weapons and other war related systems placed into a secure storage facility. Reserves fleets are usually located within close proximity to naval bases to ensure ease of access and reactivation should the ships be required with little notice.

Some ships that belong to a reserve fleet will have a skeleton crew that acts to ensure the ship is in a sea worthy and usable condition. Skeleton crews will typically perform a number of checks and duties to ensure the ships meet certain standards, for example, bilge pumps will be operated frequently to reduce the risk of steel corrosion. Certain elements of the ships may also be modified while not in use, such as sealing of areas prone to rust.

Reserve naval vessels may fall into the category of ‘obsolete’ or ‘disrepair’ in the event that the ships particular ammunition, parts and warship equipment are unavailable by the time the vessel is reactivated for service.

Reactivating a reserve fleet will require all the stored equipment and weaponry to be restored back onto the ships, and a number of safety and maintenance checks to be carried out to ensure the vessels are in a seaworthy condition. It is important each vessel pass an inspection and full service before gaining approval for reactivation for operational or war purposes. Reserve vessels can be docked in shipyards and naval bases for long periods of time, exposing both the ships and their equipment to rust, erosion and failing. It is essential that proper care is taken in maintaining both the vessels and equipment, and it is important the most suitable storage containers are used for storage purposes.

It is not uncommon for large-scale reserve fleets to become obsolete. Many reserve vessels are reduced to scrap yards or are broken down for recycling purposes. The steel on a ship is one of the most valuable recycling elements and many obsolete vessels are traded or broken down for its steel or metal parts. It is not always the case that obsolete naval vessels are recycled or broken up, in fact many countries make effective use of their unused reserve fleets by using the vessels for target and training practice.