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Edison Chouest C-Champion

Speed 12 knots
Length 220 feet
Beam 56 feet
Draft 16.5 feet
Displacement 2,106 tons
Civilian Crew 14 contract mariners
Military Crew 30 SOF
Weapons2 x .50 cal
Endurance 13 days / 10kts
26 days / 5kts
Helicopters No Air Assets
Small Boat Capacity 4 NSW 11-meter RHIBs or similar
4 boat davits, 15-ton crane +
open deck with
4 weapons/ammo boxes
Owned / Chartered Chartered
Operations in support of JSOTFP SOF required a mother ship for NSW combatant craft designed to transport personnel, equipment and supplies to remote locations that cannot be reached with larger vessels. This vessel needed to act as a maritime mother craft, supporting various organic and non-organic maritime assets. It had to be a maritime surface support platform to launch and recover, refuel, rearm, and provide maintenance for small boats. Furthermore, the MSV needed to provide berthing and habitability for the ships civilian crew and at least 30 military personnel for 30 days without resupply. Ordnance, Diesel Fuel Marine (DFM), MOGAS, and specialized communication equipment were required to be stored as well. The vessel had to have an endurance of a minimum of 30 days at sea, to include 20 days on station supporting personnel and boats, with a range of at least 10,000 nautical miles (nm) at a speed of 12 kts.

The result was an orange-hulled, white superstructure, modified ocean-going tugboat built by Edison Chouest, known as the C-Champion. USSOCOM and NAVSPECWARCOM chartered the commercial vessel the MV C-Champion, an Edison Chouest ocean-going tug to serve as a quasi-Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) for Naval Special Warfare (NSW) and Maritime Irregular Warfare (MIW) small- and medium-sized craft and their personnel to conduct training and operations with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In the early months of 2010, the Philippines NAVSOU purchased four 11-meter RHIBs to help combat the maritime terrorist and other illegal activities conducted in the vast waterways of the Philippines. As part of OEFP, U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewman and SEALs conducted a six-week class to train their AFP counterparts on basic craft operation, maintenance and navigation as wells as on conducting tactical employment training from the RHIBs. This training was conducted from the current MSV, the C-Champion utilized by NSW in support of OEFP and JSOTFP operations.

The Edison Chouest C-Champion served as host/support ship for Naval Special Warfare/Special Operations Forces (NSW/SOF). Vessel provided hyperbaric chamber services for emergencies and routine decompression operations, replenishment/minor maintenance support, personnel support, and transportation of the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) by towing and/or carrying on deck. The vessel stored ordnance, gasoline, and carry a certified hyperbaric chamber per USCG requirements. The vessel normally operated near the Hawaiian Islands, U.S. West Coast, and Guam. Homeport was expected to be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Analysis compared and contrasted the capabilities of three candidate ships the Edison Chouest MV CChampion, the High-Speed Vessel (HSV), and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) and their ability to complete anticipated missions. The HSV offers maneuverability and considerable capacity at a rate of approximately $124,000 per day. The C-Champion offers utility and economy at approximately $28,000 per day. Because of the cost advantage of the MV C-Champion, two or three of these vessels could be deployed in an operational area at the same cost per day or less as an HSV or LCS; therefore, ameliorating the disadvantage of being slowest to arrive at a scene of action.

The Navy had extensive experience dealing with Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) and has used different types of lease arrangements to acquire the specialized support services of vessels owned and operated by ECO. The Chouest vessels have generally been leased on a short-term basisless than five yearsfor transportation services, fleet tug services, and special missions, such as oceanographic surveillance and research. Under these leases, the Navy pays for the services of the vessel, its crew, and its operations and maintenance (O&M) on a daily use basis. Since 1969, the DoD has required its components to perform economic analyses of lease-versus-purchase decisions. Lease versus-purchase analyses are not required for short-term lease arrangements.

C-Champion was 220-foot long, 56-foot wide vessel, boasting a 16-foot beam and a working deck of about 3,640 square feet. C-Champion had previously been in international service for PEMEX, the Mexican national oil company, and therefore had already been upgraded to meet more stringent International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) standards. The C-Champion would be modified for use at ECOs North American Shipbuilding (NAS) in Larose, Louisiana, which designs and constructs vessels only for ECO and affiliated companies. NSWC N85 Maritime Surface Programs coordinated extensively with ECO NSA throughout the construction phase to ensure the modifications were in accordance with contracted requirements and standards.

The Vessel must be able to transport an Advanced Seal Delivery System (ASDS) with or without the ASDS transporter on deck and provide along-side mooring in a protected harbor. Vessel must be able to transport a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) with or without the DDS transporter on deck. One modification to the C-Champion was the addition of an operations/habitability module. This two-level module placed on the main deck of the MSV offers a multitude of facilities. The main level includes a medical space, a machine shop, and seven two-man staterooms. The 01 level includes a lounge/briefing room, communication space, planning space, office space, and an exercise room. This module can be modified to suite operational needs. Vessel must support berthing for 25 government personnel not greater than four per stateroom, eight per head. Curtained-off bunks are acceptable.

The modifications to the C-Champion totaled approximately $7 million. The MSVs budget for FY0810 is just over $10 million per year. To facilitate increased management of the funds and to deal with other administrative and miscellaneous issues, such as mid-year UFRs, NAVSPECWARCOM automatically taxes this amount 5%. From the remaining amount (approximately $9.099 million), fuel, food, berthing, port costs, travel, and various miscellaneous costs incurred throughout the year are subtracted. In accordance with the charter contract, the daily rate for the ship and crew was approximately $18,000.

The MSVs crew consists of 12 civilian contractors employed by ECO. Since the vessel maintains a persistent presence in the area of operations, members of the crew swapped out every few months. Also, there was a MSV Officer in Charge (OIC/Navy O-3) and a MSV Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEA/Navy E-7), who were Individual Augmentees provided by PACFLT and were responsible for coordinating logistical and operational support between the MSVs crew and embarked service members. The OIC and SEA were also responsible for proper liaison between the various levels of the chain of command. There was also an SOF-experienced communicator provided by SOCPAC onboard. On average, the MSV remained underway for 25 days and in port for five days. The MSV consumed on average about 4,000 DFM gallons per day while transiting at 10 to 12 knots, 2,000 DFM gallons per day loitering, and 300 DFM gallons per day in port. While in port, the MSV crew conducted the necessary preventive and involved maintenance that they are unable to perform while underway.

As a SOCOM asset, the MSV was outside the Seventh Fleet and Military Sealift Command, South East Asia chain of command that applies to every other MSC ship in the Pacific. With the SOCPAC Commander as the approving force protection authority in the chain of command, the measures taken to ensure vessel and crew safety did not normally make it back to MSC. Especially problematic was that the MSV operated with blanket clearances to enter coastal waters, and ECO arranged port visits like a commercial ship so that prior notification rules were very different. These procedures allowed the MSV to enter a port with more assurances that its presence was not anticipated and perhaps even exploited by some unfriendly elements of the population. MSC came to accept these procedures, even if it was not completely comfortable with them.

The use of civilian mariners onboard vessels used for irregular purposes brought with it a more flexibility than the use of military service members. It was arguable whether civilian mariners are more capable than their military counterparts, but with regards to transiting through and working within foreign ports, civilian mariners were less likely to raise suspicions about the intentions of the vessels they work on compared to U.S. sailors working onboard a similar type vessel. Civilian mariners working on commercial vessels tend to blend in better with the local population.

Another element of the MSV that may have a surprising impact on the MIW mission, and that is a direct consequence of the ship itself, is the ships paint scheme. The color of the MSV is bright orangeor more appropriately Chouest Orange, a color that no company besides ECO uses and therefore does not carry with it the normal associations that a US warship does. All countries across the globe associate grayhulled ships with U.S. warships.

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Page last modified: 17-10-2016 19:11:54 ZULU