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Cape A Class - Breakbulk

On 12 June 1998 US Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater announced the award of a total of 39 performance-based contracts to 10 American ship-owning and -operating companies to manage 89 ships of the Ready Reserve Force. The total estimated value for the contracts included the expected costs of shipyard work and other maintenance and operational expenses for which the ship managers are reimbursed. Mormac Marine Enterprises, Inc. of Stamford, CT was awarded $4,097,519 over 5 years for Cape Archway, Cape Alexander, and Cape Alava. Mormac Marine Enterprises was also awarded $8,882,610 over 5 years for Cape Ann and Cape Avinof.

Following this announcement of contracts to manage RRF ships in 1998, MARAD independently discovered an error in the award process, and rescinded the contracts. It extended existing contracts to make sure the ships remained mission ready. On 04 May 2000 Maritime Administrator Clyde J. Hart Jr. announced the award of 33 contracts, awarded on a competitive basis, to nine American ship owning and operating companies to manage 74 of the Ready Reserve Force ships. Mormac Marine Enterprises was awarded $2,768,190 for Cape Ann and Cape Archway, and $11,163,758 for Cape Alexander and Cape Avinof.

The SS Cape Alava was one of more than 90 RRF ships of Military Sealift Command's Sealift Program Office (PM 5). In FY 2000/1 a total of 19 Breakbulk Ships -- apparently including the Cape Alava -- were retired from the Ready Reserve Force as the new and Large Medium Speed Roll-on/Roll-off vessels [LMSRs] were added to the surge fleet.

The term "breakbulk ships" refers to ships characterized by large open hatches and fitted with boom-and-winch gear or deck cranes. They are primarily used at ports which, either because of low cargo volumes or local economic factors, lack the modern facilities and inland rail/highway connections required to support efficient containership operations. In competition with containerships, breakbulk ships are no longer commercially viable. Fewer of these ships are being built each year, and none has been built for US flag owners in recent years. Break-Bulk ships have always been routinely used for deployed and resupply in the past, that is, during WWII, Korea, and Southeast Asia sealift operations. With their open deck, multiple cargo holds, and service by booms and/or cranes, these ships can lift most military cargoes. These are the most versatile ship types for in-the-steam or LOTS-type operations. The military advantages of general cargo or breakbulk ships include flexibility in the load composition afforded by open decks and multiple cargo holds and the ability to discharge cargo without the use of port facilities. Their military disadvantages include time-consuming cargo operations and the requirement for large numbers of trained personnel to load and unload. For these reasons, the break-bulk ships are no longer commercially competitive with the containers and RO/RO ships and are being phased out of the commercial trade routes. The government has purchased many of the newer break-bulk ships and put them into the Ready Reserve Fleet for use in an emergency.

Merchant Ship Naval Augmentation Program (MSNAP) features and equipment are designed to enable specific merchant-type ships to augment and, when needed, act as Combat Logistics Force [CLF] vessels during a crisis or conflict. These ships are CINC-allocated assets in service with MSC or maintained in the RRF to support Navy ships. Ships modified with MSNAP systems will be activated and deployed to US or overseas ports for loadout. They will resupply fleet ships with ordnance, other dry stores, or POL.

Vertical Replenishment [VERTREP] is provided by adding an elevated deck at the stern of the ship. This installation has been done on three Consol and six MCDS ships. The deck is approved for daylight hours, hover-only operations. The helicopters are from ships being resupplied. Helicopters up to the size of a CH-53E can use this system. Strike-up and pre-stage from the ship's hold to the VERTREP deck capability is provided.

The Modular Cargo Delivery System [MCDS] enables dry cargo merchant ships to perform limited Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method (STREAM) UNREP operations with all naval ships equipped with a dry cargo UNREP receiving station. The MCDS is a self-contained Navy Standard dry cargo STREAM station. Modifications include those similar to the consolidation system for cargo handling cargo stowage. Additionally, two MCDS units are installed over hatches, one forward and one aft of the ships superstructure. Installations have been made on seven RRF ships.

CAPE ALEXANDER has MCDS and no VERTREP capability. CAPE ANN, CAPE ARCHWAY, and CAPE AVINOF have only sliding pad eyes and VERTREP capability. Reducing the RRF program by 8.170M in FY 03 and out is a readiness adjustment. Seven Modular Cargo Delivery System equipped breakbulk ships are currently part of the RRF. One is prepositioned in Diego Garcia. The other six are in ROS-5 status in the RRF. One of the six, Cape Alexander, does not have a flight deck. CINCLANTFLT analysis of CLF requirements and CNA analysis of ordnance movement requirements suggest that fewer ships in lower readiness status are sufficient for CINCS' warfighting needs. This issue would move Cape Alexander (or another breakbulk ship in poorer material condition) to NDRF, and decrease the readiness of three additional MCDS ships to RRF 10. Resulting force would be 6 MCDS ships in following status: 1 prepositioned, 2 in ROS-5, 3 in RRF-10. CINCLANT Fleet Restructure reduction downsizes this program by roughly 28M in FY 03 and out.

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