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Cape B Class - Breakbulk

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.

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. Patriot Contract Services, LLC of Walnut Creek, CA was awarded $9,247,810 over 5 years for Cape Blanco and Cape Borda. Patriot Contract Services was also awarded $6,895,110 over 5 years for Cape Breton and Cape Bover. Marine Transport Lines, Inc. of Weehawken, NJ was awarded $1,821,710 over 3.25 years for Cape Bon and Northern Light.

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. Patriot Contract Services, LLC of Walnut Creek, CA was awarded $7,582,047 for Cape Breton and Cape Bover, and $11,614,614 for Cape Blanco and Cape Borda.

Under a $24.4 million U.S. Maritime Administration contract, Bender Shipbuilding and Repair, Mobile, converted the National Defense Reserve Fleet vessel, Cape Bon into a school ship for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Bender added living quarters and lifesaving equipment for 600 cadets, officers, faculty and crew, expanded galley and stores arrangements and provided extra electric generating requirements in an auxiliary machinery room uniquely designed for diesel training. The conversion transformed the Cape Bon from a conventional general cargo ship into a fully equipped training ship with an initial complement of about 600 persons. The ship's existing steam propulsion plant wase retained. The Cape Bon was already fitted with modern navigation and communications equipment requiring no modification. An auxiliary machinery space was created in the Number 4 cargo hold, centered around a new Wartsila 8L20 medium speed, heavy fuel diesel generator. The auxiliary machinery space is equipped and arranged to simulate a modern diesel propulsion plant and may ultimately be equipped with control systems to permit its use as a diesel simulator. The Cape Bon, originally built for the Lykes Bros. Steamship Company in 1967, was renamed Enterprise. The conversion began in December 2000 was completed in one year. Academy students and instructors anticipate made their first training cruise onboard the Enterprise in the spring of 2002.

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