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AK Cargo Ship

The sea mode of transport consists of Navy and Army sealift assets. The process of transporting the force and its sustainment is an expensive undertaking. The use of this criteria is important to assure judicious resource utilization. These assets may include fast sealift ships, prepositioned afloat ships, RO/RO, container, or LO/LO ships. Containerization is the preferred method of moving military cargo. Over 80 percent of peacetime military cargo is transported in containers. In either peace or war, the terminal planner can anticipate handling a large number of containers.

The AK Cargo Ship class has come to encompass four rather dis-similar types of ships. The first is Break Bulk General Cargo Ships, which specialize in breakbulk operations. Cargo is handled as individual pieces, making operations labor-intensive. The second more recent are self-sustaining Load-On/Load-Off [LO/LO] container ships, designed for an uninterrupted, high-volume flow of containers between the vessel and land transportation. A container ship can usually be discharged within 24 to 48 hours. A non-self-sustaining vessel is one that is incapable of off-loading without cranes from external sources. A self-sustaining vessel is capable of off-loading with organic cranes. Most container vessels have no shipboard cranes to handle containers. Almost all military container ships are self-sustaining, capable of LOLO operations which involve loading equipment onto vessels using ship cranes.

The third AK Cargo ship class are AK - FLO-FLO Float-On / Float-Off vessels. The fourth AK Cargo Ship class encompasses Lighter Aboard Ship [LASH] barge carrier vessels. LASH ships stow their lighters vertically in cells and on top of the hatch covers. Another bype of bargger carrier is the SEABARGE (SEABEE), which is arranged differently from the LASH in that it has three decks on which the cargo barges or container flats are stowed. Barges are brought to each deck level by a stern elevator and are moved internally within the ship by the Transporter (conveyor) System. For reasons that are not apparent, is not designated AK, but rather given the AKR designation used by Roll-On / Roll-Off [RO-RO] vessels.

Break-bulk vessels fall under the category of general cargo (boxed, palletized, refrigerated, and limited containerized). Each hold on the ship is serviced by ship's gear, booms, cranes, and winches. These vessels are considered to be self sustaining. They are labor-intensive and not the preferred method for moving tracked and wheeled vehicles.

Container ships are designed to carry their entire cargo load in containers (usually 20- or 40-foot). The full cellular stowage within their holds allows containers to be secured without using dunnage. Container ships are configured for the stacked stowage of containers, both in the space below the main deck and on the main deck. In contrast to their civilian counterparts, most of these military container vessels are self-sustaining, though a few are non-self-sustaining and require the use of shoreside cranes or T-ACS.

Experience in ODS revealed that DOD was unprepared to use effectively, containers and containerships to move UE and ammunition. This contributed, in conjunction with port saturation and lack of ITV, to the slow deployment of CS/CSS forces and resulted in significant delays in moving Class V resupply. Also, large numbers of small, slow breakbulk vessels were used instead of containerships which resulted in significant costs in time and money.

The majority of merchant ships are container ships, and their carrying capability is limited to containerized cargo. The Navy developed sea sheds and flatracks to enhance this capability. Sea sheds provide temporary multiple decks for transporting large military and outsize break-bulk cargo that will not fit into containers. Sea sheds for commercial ships are 40 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 12 feet 5 inches high. Each FSS has eight 35-foot sea sheds. Flatracks are portable opensided 20- and 40-foot units that fit into existing below-deck container cell guides. Their purpose is to make better use of space on container ships and FSSs when transporting heavy or outsized cargo.

In the overall global deployment scheme, each point at which a unit changes the type of transportation platform (that is, air, ship, rail, commercial and military truck) is a node. Nodes are, by their nature, friction points. Friction slows the deployment time line. Therefore, throughput, the amount of cargo that can move through a node, becomes a principal concern. This is particularly true at the POEs. The objective is to maximize quickly the throughput capability by moving transportation assets, units, and enablers into position for immediate execution of the plan. Any time lost in this pursuit is lost forever and, if ports are used at less than capacity, the unused portion is irrecoverable.

Unit equipment generally passes through two primary areas before vessel loading: a marshaling area normally located just outside the port and a staging area located within the port. Depending on the size of the operation and the amount of unit equipment passing through the port, a marshaling area may or may not be established. The primary purpose of a marshaling area is to provide a location near the port complex to assemble unit equipment and sustainment cargo and make final preparations for ocean shipment just before entering the port. Marshaling areas are often established when the volume of materiel moving to the port exceeds internal port capabilities.

Terminal operations have a major impact on the entire transportation system. Vessel discharge and port clearance are often influenced by the capabilities of the transportation system and the receiving activities. Proper use of Materials-Handling Equipment [MHE] - large, mechanically powered equipment used to lift, transfer, and stack cargo - greatly increases operational efficiency. The positioning of the right MHE at the right location to handle the cargo is very important in intermodal operations. Also crucial is the preparation of cargo ahead of time to guarantee acceptability by the succeeding mode. For example, having the capability to transfer equipment rapidly from sea to air near an SPOE is a function of preparing the equipment to meet Air Force and US Navy loading requirements prior to making the shipment.

To optimize the transportation system capacity, the Army uses intermodal systems for contingency and peacetime movements of general cargo, unit equipment, and ammunition. The most common system is the container. It can transfer from highway to rail or sea without disturbing its contents. The Army standard container is the 20-foot, ISO container. However, many commercial containers are also used in the process of supporting a military operation. The most commonly available military useful ISO containers are 20 and 40 feet in length. The main concern when handling containers is the positioning of adequate MHE at the in-transit terminals and an unstuffing capability at the destination terminal. Transportation operators should acquire the required MHE from commercial or HN sources when the organic capability is insufficient to provide adequate resources for all terminals.

Break-Bulk general cargo ships operate from fixed port facilities, which accommodate cargo discharge or backload operations. Sophisticated equipment and procedures characterize this type facility. It has extensive hardstand areas, transit sheds, shore cranes, and access to well-established, well-defined railnets and roadnets. Most modern fixed ports are designed to handle a specific type of cargo or combination of cargo.

Self-sustaining LOLO conainer ships can operate from an unimproved port facility, one not specifically designed for cargo operations. An example is a pier facility frequented by fishing vessels. This type facility is characterized by its lack of sophisticated facilities and equipment. It may have a hardstand or hard surface alongside a shallow body of water and some type of simple shore crane used for loading and discharging fishing boats. The water depth and pier length are generally inadequate for oceangoing vessels. It has sparse roadnets. Railnets are probably nonexistent. Facilities may be adaptable for cargo operations; however, upgrades needed to support these operations would include MHE, transit sheds, a marshaling area, and communications.

Self-sustaining LOLO conainer ships can also operate from a bare beach facility, which has no facilities, equipment, or infrastructure available for discharging a vessel. A Logistics Over The Shore (LOTS) operation would be conducted here. The area requires considerable engineer support to develop a facility suitable for cargo operations.

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