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Cape H Class - Ro-Ro

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. Keystone Shipping Services, Inc. of Bala Cynwyd, PA was awarded $13,822,690 over 5 years for Cape Henry, Cape Horn and Cape Hudson.

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of contracts to manage RRF ships in 1998, MARAD independently discovered an error in the award process, and rescinded the contracts.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. Marine Transport Lines, Inc. of Weehawken, NJ was awarded $15,932,462 for Cape Henry, Cape Horn, and Cape Hudson.

The Cape H class of RO/RO ships were designed as combination RO/RO and container carriers for operations in underdeveloped ports. Lift-on operations are accomplished with a 39-LTON capacity pedestal. Three Cape H RO/RO-class ships served with the Army Preposition Afloat [APA] program: the MV Cape Henry, MV Cape Horn, and MV Cape Hudson. They can carry up to 6,766 standard ISO containers spread over four holds and have a 39-ton crane to unload the containers. They have a fixed 63.9-ton capacity vehicle ramp on the starboard/stern quarter. The ramp allows RO/RO operations to the starboard side or aft only. These ships have an overall capability of carrying 180,000 square feet of cargo.

The cargo capacity of each ship includes a 34,000 (25,500 at 75%) square foot hoistable deck that has only 6.4 feet of vertical clearance with a deck strength of 41 pounds per square foot that may be of limited military utility.

A Roll-On/Roll-Off [RO/RO] ship is specifically designed to carry wheeled and tracked vehicles as all or most of its cargo. Vehicles are driven or towed on and off the ship by means of either the ship's own ramps or shore-based ramps. Because it is designed to accommodate cargoes which cannot be stacked but which vary in height, below-deck space and volume utilization is generally less efficient than on a containership. RO/RO ships are thus commercially viable only in certain specialized trades. However, the RO/RO is the preferred ship type for deployment of military unit equipment. The military advantages of RO/RO ships include the capability for rapid loading and discharge of military vehicles and non-self-deployable aircraft, and open deck areas well suited to the carriage of outsized military cargo. Their military disadvantages include their relative unsuitability for carriage of sustaining supplies and ammunition (in comparison with general cargo and containerships) and their limited availability, because their market sector is much reduced compared with containerships.

The RO/RO ship is primarily a vehicle transporter that allows vehicles to drive on or off the ship via ramps. RO/RO cargo includes wheeled, tracked, self-propelled, and towed vehicles and equipment. A series of external and internal ramps facilitate the loading and discharge of RO/RO cargo. To maintain safe operations, the ramp angle for loading/unloading procedures is no greater than 15 degrees. When designing wheeled or tracked equipment, the materiel developer/contractor must allow for adequate clearance underneath the vehicle to prevent contact at the ramp crest/toe for a 15 degree ramp and enough clearance above the vehicle to prevent projection interference problems.

The US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) activated 13 Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships on 24 January 2003 to support Operation Enduring Freedom, including Cape Henry, Cape Horn, and Cape Hudson. The activations follow orders received from the US Navy's Military Sealift Command. The recently-activated ships join 19 others already activated to support Operation Enduring Freedom. These, combined with four others on long-term assignment, brought the total of activated MARAD RRF ships to 36.

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