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Cape V 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 $9,575,500 over 5 years for Cape Victory and Cape Vincent.

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of contracts to manage RRF ships in 1998, MARAD independently discovered an error in the award process, and rescinded the contracts.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. Keystone Shipping Co. of Bala Cynwyd, PA was awarded $12,211,522 for Cape Victory and Cape Vincent.

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.

On 20 May 2003, U.S. Maritime Administrator William G. Schubert presented Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medals to the officers and crew of the Cape Vincent and the Cape Victory at a colorful ceremony at Riverfront Park in Beaumont, TX. The Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal is awarded to those who serve on U.S.-flag ships in support of operations involving American and allied military forces. The Cape Vincent and the Cape Victory took materiel and supplies to American troops for Operations Enduring Freedom/ Iraqi Freedom. The ships are home-ported in Beaumont, and the City of Beaumont and the Port of Beaumont hosted the ceremony.

A Ready Reserve Force ship activated by US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) September 20, 2005 was initially unable to leave its home port of Beaumont, TX but that doesn't mean she wasn't working. The MV Cape Vincent was not able to depart Beaumont on time because some of the crew members couldn't get to the ship in the traffic jams preceding landfall of Hurricane Rita. So the Vincent and its sister ship, the MV Cape Victory, stayed in port and become a temporary shelter for the emergency vehicles belonging to the Port of Beaumont, the City of Beaumont, and Jefferson County, as well as for a number of police dogs who also need a place to stay.

The Cape Victory and Cape Vincent, the two Keystone managed RRF vessels based in Beaumont, TX were put to good use as Rita began blowing into town in September 2005 and officials feared the worst. Two days before Rita made landfall, the ships were loaded up with over 200 emergency vehicles as well as police dogs to keep them safe until the storm passed. The MEBA-crewed vessels served their purpose well and, soon enough, firetrucks, ambulances and bulldozers were offloaded and immediately put to use. The Cape Vincent was later activated and departed for New Orleans to support relief efforts in that area. The Cape Victory remains in Beaumont and is serving as a headquarters for relief operations for 90 area officials and emergency workers.



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