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T-AK 2016 Pioneer Commander

Pioneer Crusader was downgraded from RRF on 05 May 1998.

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. Pacific-Gulf Marine, Inc of Gretna, LA was awarded $1,242,027 over 3.25 years for Pioneer Commander and Pioneer Contractor.

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of contracts to manage RRF ships in 1998, MARAD independently discovered an error in the award process, and rescinded the contracts.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. None of these vessels were included in these new awards. In FY 2000/1 a total of 19 Breakbulk Ships were retired from the Ready Reserve Force as the new and Large Medium Speed Roll-on/Roll-off vessels [LMSRs] were added to the surge fleet.

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 final test of strength between the Republic of Vietnam and its Communist antagonists that many observers had long predicted occurred in the early months of 1975. Demoralized South Vietnamese troops abandoned port after port along the South Vietnamese coast to swiftly advancing North Vietnamese forces. With five North Vietnamese divisions pressing the remnants of the South Vietnamese armed forces and hundreds of thousands of refugees into Danang, order in the city disintegrated. During this period of growing chaos in South Vietnam, the U.S. Navy readied for evacuation operations. On 25 March 1975, a number of ships were alerted for imminent evacuation operations in South Vietnam. Noncombatants were chosen for the mission because the Paris Agreement prohibited the entry of US Navy or other military forces into the country.

With the arrival at Danang of Pioneer Contender on 27 March 1975, the massive U.S. sea evacuation of I and II Corps began. During the next several days four of the five barge-pulling tugs and Sgt. Andrew Miller, Pioneer Commander, and American Challenger put in at the port. The vessels embarked U.S. Consulate, MSC, and other American personnel and thousands of desperate Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. When the larger ships were filled to capacity with 5,000 to 8,000 passengers, they individually sailed for Cam Ranh Bay further down the coast. Hampered by South Vietnamese shelling of Qui Nhon, Pioneer Commander, Greenville Victory, Korean-flag LST Boo Heung Pioneer, and three tugs were unable to load evacuees at this city, which fell on 31 March. The speed of the South Vietnamese collapse and the enemy's quick exploitation of it limited the number of refugees rescued from Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang. Before the latter port fell on 2 April, however, Boo Heung Pioneer and Pioneer Commander brought 11,500 passengers on board and put out to sea.

On the evening of 2 May 1975 the MSC flotilla of Sgt Truman Kimbro, Sgt Andrew Miller, Greenville Victory, Pioneer Contender, Pioneer Commander, Green Forest, Green Port, American Challenger, and Boo Heung Pioneer, with 44,000 refugees, set sail for reception centers in the Philippines and Guam. Thus ended the 25-year American effort to aid the Republic of Vietnam in its fight for survival.

In 1977 Todd Shipyards committed serious violations of OSHA shipyard standards by failing to guard certain deck openings and by permitting employees to enter an inadequately illuminated area. The citations were issued following a fatal accident in which a Todd employee fell into an unguarded hatch on a ship undergoing repair work at Todd's Alameda, California shipyard. Administrative Law Judge Jerry W. Mitchell found that the violative conditions occurred as alleged, but vacated the citations upon finding that Todd did not and could not, with reasonable diligence, know that employees would be in the area where the conditions existed. The vessel on which the alleged violations occurred was a cargo ship, the S.S. Pioneer Contractor.

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