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Cape J 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. Apex Marine Ship Management of Lake Success, NY was awarded $5,074,365 over 5 years for Cape John and Cape Jacob. Apex Marine Ship Management was also awarded $7,870,195 over 5 years for Cape Juby and Cape Johnson.

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of contracts to manage RRF ships in 1998, MARAD independently discovered an error in the award process, and rescinded the contracts.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. American Overseas Marine Corporation of Quincy, MA was awarded $10,701,806 to support Cape Juby and Cape Johnson and $6,892,320 for Cape John and Cape Jacob.

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) is a mechanized cargo transfer unit that acts as a combination elevator and winch, hoisting pallets of cargo into the air and then across wire lines strung between two ships sailing side-by-side. 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. Two MCDS units have been installed on Ready Reserve Force ships SS Cape Johnson, SS Cape Alexander, SS Cape Gibson, SS Cape Girardeau, SS Cape John, SS Cape Juby and SS Cape Jacob.

All vessels have MCDS and VERTEP capability. The cargo capacities increase from CAPE JUBY to CAPE JOHNSON to CAPE JACOB and CAPE JOHN. The CAPE JACOB and CAPE JOHN have the same highest capacity because they have an extra 'tween deck. For Navy prepositioning, MSC operates the Navy's first modular cargo delivery system (MCDS) vessel, SS CAPE JACOB. The vessel will carry Navy Ordnance and will also have the capability to operate as a shuttle replenishment ship for naval battle groups. SS Cape Jacob is one of Military Sealift Command's 34 Ready Reserve Force Ships and is part of the 38 ships in the Prepositioning Program (PM3).

On 03 August 2005 Matson Navigation Company was awarded ship management contracts by the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) for three ships in its Ready Reserve Fleet. Two of the vessels, SSs Comet and Meteor, are ro-ro ships that were currently in reduced operating status (ROS) in Alameda, California and the third, SS Cape Jacob, a break bulk vessel in full operating status (FOS) on duty with the US Navy Military Sealift Command's Pre-Position Program. The contract for the ROS vessels was for four years, with two three-year extensions possible, and the FOS vessel contract is for one year, with potential for two one-year extensions. MARAD estimated the total contract award is valued at $22.3 million; the award amount covered crew, maintenance and other management expenses related to the operation of the ships. Matson was responsible for keeping the ships in a constant state of readiness and getting the ships fully crewed with US-citizen merchant mariners when an activation call goes out.

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