The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) has agreed to remove most of the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet from the San Francisco bay estuary by September 2017.

The federal government will withdraw a fleet of 52 obsolete and decaying military vessels from the estuary between the San Francisco bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, according to Associated Press.

MARAD said the 25 worst polluting ships will be removed by September 2012 while the rest will go by September 2017.

All the ships will be recycled at various MARAD yards.

The government has also agreed to clean up piles of hazardous paint chips from rotting decks within 120 days.

Studies suggest the warships have dumped more than 20t of copper, lead, zinc and other metals into the estuary.