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September 20, 2007
Military Sealift Command accepts new ship -
improves ability to support U.S. troops ashore
|Click on the image for a high-resolution photo.|
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FLA. - The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command accepted a new ship here early this morning, greatly improving the command's ability to deliver fuel to soldiers and Marines operating ashore where port facilities are inadequate or non-existent.
MV Vice Adm. K.R. Wheeler was delivered to MSC by the ship's builder and owner Edison Chouest following six days of acceptance trials. Wheeler is the platform for a new off-shore petroleum distribution system, or OPDS, that can pump fuel to shore from a tanker anchored up to eight miles off the coast - twice the distance of existing OPDS systems. Wheeler is under contract to MSC for up to five years.
"This new system allows us to do more in less time with fewer resources," said Tim McLaughlin, one of MSC's lead project officers in charge of Wheeler's delivery and development. "To really support our troops we needed to improve greatly upon the existing OPDS tankers' capabilities."
The nearly 349-foot long, 70-foot wide Wheeler carries eight miles of metal-lined flexible pipe on five 35-foot tall spools mounted on the ship's weather deck. The specially-designed pipe is eight-inches in diameter and is comprised of nine layers of protective materials.
In less than 48-hours, Wheeler's crew can run the full length of pipe ashore from the ship's bow, run a float hose to a tanker from the ship's stern, and be ready to begin pumping fuel at a rate of 1.7 million gallons per 20-hour period.
Wheeler replaces two existing OPDS tankers, SS Chesapeake and SS Petersburg. Chesapeake transferred from MSC's fleet to the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Fleet in Sept. 2006 and Petersburg will do the same later this year. Chesapeake and Petersburg will both ultimately become part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet.
Wheeler's improved capabilities include the ability to pump 500,000 gallons more fuel per day, operate in more difficult environmental conditions including surface currents of up to three knots and winds of up to 40 knots, and install pipe over an ocean bottom of rock and shell in addition to mud, sand and coral.
Wheeler also requires far fewer people to deploy its distribution system than its predecessors, which required about 200 people. Wheeler's crew is made up of 24 civilians working for private companies under contract to MSC - 16 civilian mariners operate and navigate the ship, and eight systems operators, six of whom join the ship only during fueling evolutions, operate and deploy the distribution system.
Wheeler will depart Eglin today for Norfolk, Va., to conduct several days of demonstrations. In early October, Wheeler will continue to Guam, where it will take over for Petersburg. Wheeler may be used in at least two exercises next year.
Wheeler operates with the assistance of its own 165-foot tender vessel, MV Fast Tempo, and two amphibious vessels, called LARCs, which run the pipe to shore and link Wheeler to a tanker via float hose. Wheeler also carries a beach terminal unit, a piece of equipment carried to shore by the LARC, that receives the fuel and transfers it to holding tanks.
Military Sealift Command operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, chart ocean bottoms, conduct undersea surveillance, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military equipment and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.
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