MSC 2000 in Review

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The Sealift Program provides ocean transport for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.

he Sealift Program provides marine transportation to the Department of Defense in peace, contingency and war, carrying combat equipment and supplies to locations around the world and providing surge shipping of these assets when required. In addition to routine peacetime sealift, the program provides ocean transport for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.

In peacetime, the Sealift Program's Tanker and Cargo Project Offices employ a diverse force of chartered ships: tankers, roll-on/roll-off ships, combination ships (roll-on/roll-off/container/breakbulk), container ships, heavy-lift ships, tugs and barges.

The Surge Sealift Project office maintains its fleet of government-owned fast sealift ships and large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships in a high state of readiness for contingencies and war, employing commercial contractors to maintain and crew the ships and provide layberths where the ships wait until needed.

The Sealift Program also maintains a close working relationship with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration, owners and operators of the Ready Reserve Force. When activated, MSC assumes operational control of RRF ships.

Tanker Project Office

The Sealift Program's Tanker Project Office manages all aspects of the ocean transportation of the DOD's petroleum products worldwide as supported by the Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Energy Support Center petroleum storage and distribution facilities.

MV Lawrence H. Gianella
MSC strategic sealift tanker MV Lawrence H. Gianella sits pierside in Gaeta, Italy. (Photo by Edward Baxter)

The Tanker Project Office began FY 2000 with six tankers under long-term contract. Additionally, 56 voyage-chartered vessels added to the overall lifting capacity of the fleet. More than 250 lifts totaling almost 1.5 billion gallons of petroleum products were delivered to DOD facilities around the world.

Major bulk fuel products carried included Navy jet fuel, marine diesel fuel (the primary Navy and Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force bunker fuel) and kerosene-based jet fuel (the primary fuel for Army ground forces and Air Force planes). MSC tankers also lifted Antarctic turbine fuel for the National Science Foundation; gasoline for the Pacific Islands, Okinawa and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and heavy bunker fuel oil in support of the MSC prepositioning ships at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

The tanker fleet maintained an impressive record of zero spills with more than five million tons of fuel moved in FY 2000.

Fleet Composition

At the heart of the MSC-controlled fleet are the T-5 tankers. Built in 1985, these five 237,000 barrel tankers have double hulls and advanced-technology safety systems. They also are ice strengthened. Additionally, two of the T-5s are equipped with modular fuel delivery systems, which allow them to participate in at-sea replenishment exercises and refuel naval combatants, if required. These tankers are under a 20-year charter that expires in 2005. Other time-charters in FY 2000 included the 50,000-barrel tanker MV Valiant for use in shallow-draft ports in the Far East.

Japan-Korea Tanker Shuttle Service

MSC tanker charter assets provide a shuttle service between fuel suppliers in South Korea and Japan to Defense Energy Support Center shallow draft depots in Japan and Korea. In FY 2000, T-1 tanker MV Valiant completed more than 45 voyages. MSC also manages a contract for fuel shuttle service within Tokyo Bay depots.

Alaska Fuel Barge

The re-supply operation to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands commenced in April and continued through the end of the fiscal year with four separate voyages made by a contract commercial barge operator. The U.S. Air Force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard are among the numerous customers served during this operation.

Ice Missions

MV Richard G. Matthiesen re-supplied McMurdo Station in Antarctica during Operation Deep Freeze as a service to the National Science Foundation. MV Gus W. Darnell participated in Operation Pacer Goose, the re-supply of Thule Air Base, Greenland, in July.

Cargo Project Office

The Cargo Project Office is responsible for all DOD dry cargo ocean transportation other than cargoes carried by regularly scheduled commercial liner services. The Cargo Project Office manages long- and short-term time charters and voyage charters and assigns the surge and Ready Reserve Force ships to meet mission requirements.

Long-Term Charters

USS Cardinal and USS Raven are positioned over MV Blue Marlin's submerged deck
Navy mine hunters USS Cardinal and USS Raven are positioned over Blue Marlin's submerged deck as the ship begins to de-ballast -- rising out of the water by draining tanks under her deck. (Photo by Rebecca Rogers)

In FY 2000, the Cargo Project Office used six long-term charters to meet unique missions that liner services could not support. These missions included a multi-purpose ship for Diego Garcia support; an ice-strengthened ship for support of the U.S. Air Force at Thule, Greenland, and the National Science Foundation at McMurdo, Antarctica; a combination ship to move ammunition throughout the Pacific; a Jones Act ship to support the Hawaiian Islands and U.S. territories in the Mid-Pacific and a tug/barge and a small supply ship to support DOD missions in the Caribbean.

Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships

The Cargo Office continued to use new LMSRs during their break-in and warranty periods, primarily for exercise support. (See Exercise Participation on page XX.)

Heavy Lift

MSC was tasked this year to move two Navy coastal minehunters from Ingleside, Texas, to Bahrain. Coastal minehunters are not designed for long open-ocean transits, so MSC chartered MV Blue Marlin, the world's newest and largest float-on/float-off vessel. Use of a float-on/float-off ship allowed the minehunters to transit to Bahrain in approximately one-third less time than it would have taken them to self-deploy, and they arrived fully operational.

MV Blue Marlin
The deck of MV Blue Marlin emerges from the water off the coast of Ingleside, Texas, as her passengers - USS Cardinal and USS Raven - rest on Blue Marlin's deck. (Photo by Marge Holtz)
The Cargo Project Office, in conjunction with naval architects from MSC's Engineering Directorate, also undertook a major study of the feasibility of lifting mine countermeasure ships using a specially designed cradle on the deck of a roll-on/roll-off ship. This was done to allow more flexibility in ship selection to meet critical warfighter needs. The study determined that such lifts could be accomplished if the need arose.

Surge Project Office

The Surge Project Office has prime responsibility for the government-owned ships in MSC's fleet that are maintained in reduced operating status. These ships, strategically located near major Army loading ports, are ready to respond to the initial surge of shipping expected at the onset of a contingency. Surge shipping has two components: MSC's Fast Sealift Ships and large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships and the U.S. Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force. MSC's Surge Project Office contracts for all FSS and LMSR operation, maintenance and layberthing, and serves as the conduit to the RRF through the Maritime Administration.

USNS Capella
USNS Capella off-loads a U.S. Army fuel truck via the ship's cranes in Dekheila, Egypt, for the multinational exercise Bright Star 2000. (Photo by Edward Baxter)

Fast Sealift Ships

The eight FSS are maintained in reduced operating status, capable of being activated and ready to sail to a loading port in four days. Commercial ship operators under contract to MSC operate and maintain these 946-foot-long, 27-knot-capable ships at layberths near Jacksonville, Fla., Norfolk, Va., Staten Island, N.Y., and New Orleans, La. The ship at Norfolk does double duty as a training platform for U.S. Army cargo-handling students from Fort Eustis, Va.

These ships are capable of loading up to 150,000 square feet of heavy military cargo. Unlike most roll-on/roll-off ships, FSS are equipped with large pedestal cranes that can be operated singly or in pairs. This means that they can be self-sustaining in undeveloped ports or can discharge their cargo at anchorage during a logistics-over-the-shore operation.

MSC awarded a new contract for the operation and maintenance of the Sealift Program's eight fast sealift ships in FY 2000. The total fixed-price award value was $99.3 million, with projected contract reimbursable costs of $86.5 million for five years if all options are exercised.

Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships

This year, the Surge Project Office made significant progress toward the FY 2002 eleven-ship LMSR force. Three LMSRs -- USNS Gordon, USNS Seay and USNS Yano -- joined the surge fleet in FY 2000, bringing the total to five.

Large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Seay arrives in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, - passing the Arizona Memorial - to load U.S. Army equipment to be used in Exercise Turbo Patriot 00. (Photo by John Brady)

As wide and long as the FSS, the LMSRs carry almost twice the cargo because of the hull design and number of decks. Pedestal cranes and both side and stern ramps mean that the LMSR is ideally suited for undeveloped ports or logistics over the shore.

Like the FSS, LMSRs are berthed on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. In FY 2000, the first LMSR layberths were awarded: two in Baltimore, Md., and two near New Orleans, La.

Ready Reserve Force

The RRF, which in FY 2000 comprised 90 militarily useful government owned merchant ships, is operated and maintained by commercial ship managers under contract to the U.S. Maritime Administration. The ships can be activated in four, five, 10 or 20 days. When activated, RRF ships come under MSC's operational control.

MSC representatives routinely visit each of the ships, evaluating readiness, observing sea and dock trials and working with Maritime Administration personnel, ship managers and shipboard personnel on maintenance actions.

No-notice ship activation by the U.S. Transportation Command tests RRF readiness. About 20 per cent of the RRF was activated for exercises in FY 2000.

SS Grand Canyon State
Crane ship SS Grand Canyon State from the Ready Reserve Force, participated in Turbo Patriot 00, a joint logistics over-the-shore exercise off the coast of southern California.

Ready Reserve Force (90 ships as of Sept. 30, 2000)

* One breakbulk ship, one auxiliary crane ship and two offshore petroleum discharge system ships are active and prepositioned.