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November 2011

ITB Strong Mariner delivers USMC cargo
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By Edward Baxter, MSC Far East Public Affairs

A shipping container for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade is loaded on board MSC-chartered ship ITB Strong Mariner
A shipping container for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade is loaded on board MSC-chartered ship ITB Strong Mariner Sept. 29 in Okinawa, Japan. In total, 90 containers were loaded to support the Marines' participation in Philippine Landing Exercise 2011, a bilateral exercise in the Philippines. U.S. Navy photo by BMCS Gene Palabrica

Military Sealift Command-chartered cargo ship ITB Strong Mariner delivered more than 18,000 square feet of U.S. Marine Corps equipment and supplies to Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 5-6 in preparation for the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise, or PALE 2011, that was conducted Oct. 17-28.

Cargo included key logistical-support equipment needed for the exercise - Humvees, trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, trailers and 90 shipping containers of supplies.

PALE 2011, the eighth annual exercise of its kind and formerly called PHIBLEX, is a bilateral training exercise designed to increase readiness, improve interoperability, strengthen military ties and build relationships between the United States and the Philippines. Besides training, the exercise included community relations, engineering and medical civic-action programs. Exercise events took place at various land and sea locations in the vicinity of the Philippine island of Luzon.

Participants included U.S. Marines from the Okinawa, Japan-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, armed forces of the Philippines, and USS Essex Amphibious Ready group with its embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

A capable ship

"Strong Mariner is a versatile ship which is well suited to transport military cargo," said Strong Mariner's civilian master Capt. Arvid Anderson.

The ship has two side ramps and a 50-ton-capacity crane on its starboard side. In addition, the ship can raise a section of its bow to enable cargo to be rolled on board when the ship is in a Mediterranean mooring, or Med-moor position, where the ship docks to the pier at its bow and is stabilized by two anchors at its stern.

"This can be highly beneficial when conducting cargo operations in underdeveloped ports," Anderson said.

Preparing to get underway

Strong Mariner was loaded with cargo destined for Subic Bay at the Okinawa, Japan, ports of Naha and Tengan, Sept. 27-29.

"Strong Mariner's crew worked well with U.S. Marines to quickly load the vessel and get it underway," said MSCO Okinawa's operations officer Boatswain's Mate Senior Chief Gene Palabrica. "The ship and its crew clearly showed they could handle the mission."

Once underway to Subic Bay, the ship encountered strong winds and heavy seas, remnants of Typhoon Nalgae, which caused mass destruction and widespread flooding around the island of Luzon. "We were forced to travel at slower speeds because of the intensity of the storm," Anderson said.

The U.S.-flagged Strong Mariner was well designed for the challenging journey. The vessel combines a tug boat interlocked with a barge, enabling operation in all sea states.

Despite delays caused by the weather, the ship made an on-time delivery to Subic Bay Oct. 5 - pulling alongside the pier just before 7 a.m. local time. All of the ship's cargo was off-loaded by 2 a.m. the following morning.

"MSC plays a significant role in theater exercises by safely and efficiently delivering equipment and supplies to meet our customers' requirements," said Navy Capt. Chip Denman, commander, Military Sealift Command Far East.

Following PALE 2011, exercise cargo was slated for return to bases in mainland Japan and Okinawa.