When barracks are not available, the Navy prefers to house crewmembers in barges because they (1) are mobile/flexible, (2) are self-contained, (3) improve administrative control over crews, and (4) provide additional overhaul needs (such as offices, shops, and storage).
Fleet commanders strongly prefer to have their crews housed in barges because duty time is lost whenever a ship's crew is housed in Navy barracks and the duty crew must be bussed from the ship to a messing facility some distance away for the noon-day meal and then returned to the ship. No transportation time is lost when a berthing barge has messing as well as berthing accommodations. A barge can be moved next to a ship, thereby providing quicker response time during emergencies aboard the ship.
The Navy has stated in its budget justifications that berthing barges are needed to provide berthing, messing, and limited repair capability to ships' crews while in overhaul or repair during the period the ship is uninhabitable. In addition, the ship's commanding officer retains a large part of the crew near the ship for (1) security reasons, including threat of fire and flooding, (2) effective work management, and (3) control of ship's personnel.
By the early 1980s each year the Navy overhauled about 65 ships in about 50 different locations. Since many of these locations do not have adequate nearby berthing and messing facilities for the crews of the ships being overhauled, the Navy must find housing for the crews. The Navy believed that many of its older barges did not meet habitability standards and that it would be too expensive to modify all of them. However, the Navy believed that by modifying some of the barges and by building some new ones, it will be able to meet future overhaul berthing requirements.
The fleet's preference for berthing barges apparently was given considerable weight in Navy plans to acquire 10,346 berthing barge spaces as opposed to 4,362 shore facility spaces. If the berthing space acquisition program continues as currently planned, total costs and costs per berthing space will be considerably more for barges than for construction on shore.
The Navy had not firmed up its inventory objective for berthing barges. As of 1981 a total of 44 berthing barges were in the active inventory. Two more had recently been delivered and will be added to the inventory. Fourteen more had been contracted for and are expected to be delivered by July 1984. Although these would put the active inventory at 60 berthing barges, it was anticipated that the inventory will never reach 60 because some of the older barges will be phased out as some of the newer barges are phased into the inventory.
The Navy acquired the 17 APLs during 1944 through 1946. They provide berthing, messing, administrative, and classroom facilities. Five APLs house 132 to 266 people, five house 267 to 449, and seven house 450 to 720. In addition to the 17 APLs active in 1981, 2 were on loan to foreign governments.
Nine YRBMs provided complete berthing, messing, administrative, and classroom facilities. Of the nine, one houses 140 people and eight house 247 to 260 people. Fourteen YRBMs are limited to facilities for duty crews. The accommodations for 11 of these range from 100 to 124 people. The other three can accommodate 18, 22, and 87 people. One of the YRBMs was built in 1944, the other 22 between 1955 and 1971.
Four IXs were considered part of the berthing barge inventory as of 1981. Two provide berthing, messing, administrative, and classroom space for 530 people. A third is limited to duty crew facilities. The fourth, the converted troopship Gaffey completed in November 1980, can provide berthing, messing, administrative, and classroom space for 2,000 people. The date built was not reported for the duty barge: however, the others were built in 1944. In addition to having the Gaffey, the Navy planned in 1991 to convert another troopship, the Darby, for the Norfolk/Newport News shipyards. Sufficient shore accommodations were not available at either facility and that the Darby would have to be ready to accommodate the scheduled 1983 overhaul of the carrier USS Nimitz.
The fiscal year 1982 budget backup data for the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) appropriation, prepared in January 1981, indicated that the Navy is acquiring 16 YRBM class barges. The mission justification stated that each barge will provide berthing and messing facilities for approximately 250 personnel to support ships and submarines under construction or overhaul.
The barges were acquired from Marinette Marine Corp., Marinette, Wisconsin, under two separate contracts. The first contract covered six barges under a multiyear contract for fiscal years 1978 and 1979. as of 1981 two of these barges had been delivered, two were to be delivered in June 1981, and two were to be delivered in November 1981. The type of contract is fixed price incentive with an escalation clause.
OPNAVINST 4700.38 established the B&M Program in April of 1992 to address significant QOL issues during maintenance availabilities not sufficiently addressed in the past. During availabilities when the ship is declared uninhabitable, berth the crew ashore in satisfactory quarters. Utilize Duty Crew Berthing Barges to berth the duty section and mess the entire crew when facilities onboard are declared uninhabitable. OPNAVINST C9210.2A requires Duty Crew Berthing Barges to be placed in close proximity to ships to provide for duty section emergency response.
The program was established as a CNO Interest Item in order to monitor compliance. OPNAV N4 and N7 were to provide funding for BQ/leased housing, transportation, and the operation, maintenance and modernization, via FMP Title "D" SHIPALTS, of assigned Duty Crew Berthing Barges. The Program was assigned to the Fleet Commanders for management and execution.
As outlined per OPNAVINST 4700.38, BQs were to be built where the requirement was repetitive and existing BQs were not sufficient to support the requirement. Short-term-civilian leased facilities were to be used when BQs were not available. Duty Crew Berthing Barges were to be utilized as a norm to berth the duty crew, mess the entire crew and provide commuter locker and training facilities with the necessary administrative support.
Since its inception, the program has been funded to only 50-60 percent of requirement. The majority of funds were expended on the off-ship berthing, transportation, operational and O-level maintenance components of the program as these components had the greatest affect on Sailor's QOL. Minimal funds were spent on barge recapitalization (D/I-Level Maintenance) or modernization. Eighteen Duty Crew Berthing Barges are currently out of their scheduled docking overhaul (DROH) periodicity. In the past three years of fifteen scheduled docking overhauls (DROH), only three emergent dockings were executed. The fifty seven year old APL 5 has been removed from service as a result of two successive fires in her antiquated electrical systems.
Entire crews have forced to berth on Duty Crew Berthing Barges as the last alternative to remaining onboard their ships during scheduled CNO availabilities. The additional mandated BQs in major Fleet concentrations have not materialized.
In May 2000, the B&M Program Southwest Region lost the use of 1400 beds at the former NTC facility in San Diego to BRAC. Four hundred beds in inadequate (open bay) berthing were identified at NAB, Coronado to mitigate this shortfall. This inadequate facility was scheduled for demolition in Fiscal Year 2006. In Japan, Current Facility Improvement Program (FIP) BQ projects through Fiscal Year 2004 keep 50 percent of existing BQ space unavailable to the Fleet's requirements.
The Berthing & Messing (B&M) Program has historically been challenged in the areas of Off-Ship Berthing, barge recapitalization and new construction. The events of 11 September 2001 exacerbated the issue to the point where Sailors normally assigned to BQs are being berthed primarily on Duty Crew Berthing Barges or must remain onboard their ships during scheduled availabilities significantly impacting their Quality of Life (QOL).
As of early 2002 CINCPACFLT was not able to meet the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) requirements within funding provided and programmed through the FYDP. CINCPACFLT cannot support all ships declared unihabitable during scheduled CNO availabilities with required off ship berthing (BQs/leased housing) and duty crew berthing barges.
The reserve/security force surge to BQs as a result of Navy's response to 11 September 2001 events, and the inability to provide acceptable "Force Protection" to concentrations of ship's crews off-base in leased housing has exacerbated the Off Ship Berthing component of the program in all regions. The Pacific Fleet B&M Program does not have the sufficient barge inventory, nor are barges configured or in adequate material condition to meet these additional requirements. Reference (c) has identified and recommended barge new construction as the number two priority of all Service Craft recapitalization efforts.
Facing these significant challenges, CINCPACFLT took a number of actions to insure Sailors' QOL is not further degraded. This included aggressive management of availability scheduling, port facility workload and unit work package composition to effectively utilize limited B&M Program resources. CINCPACFLT increased the number of bunks (1400) onboard selected Duty Crew Berthing Barges to support entire crews by Fiscal Year 2003. CINCPACFLT requested NAVSEA support new construction Berthing Barge assets. OPNAV N43 was asked lead a working group chartered to review the berthing and messing program requirements determination and programming process with the objective of revising this process to adequately support this program in the development of the FY 05 Program and budget. Working group membership would consist of representatives from CINPACFLT, CINCLANTFLT, NAVSEA and OPNAV.
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