UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT)

A significant and rising littoral threat are fast inshore attack craft (FIAC). These small boats often resemble pleasure craft or fishing boats allowing them to move indiscriminately among similar-looking vessels. FIAC are also highly maneuverable and, coupled with swarming tactics where a large number simultaneously assault a target, they pose a substantial and ever-increasing threat in the maritime environment. In homogenous surroundings like this the enemy is difficult, if not impossible to detect. Furthermore, within the time and space constraints of the littoral environment, detection and classification of the enemy leaves little time to react and engage an appropriate response.

A US official said 16 May 2019 that Iranian missiles loaded on small boats in the Persian Gulf were among the "threats" that have triggered a beefed-up military deployment in the region. "The missiles on civilian boats are a concern," said the official, who asked not to be named. The person was confirming reports in The New York Times saying that Washington reacted to aerial photos from U.S. intelligence agencies showing traditional boats carrying Iranian missiles in the Gulf, one of the world's most strategic waterways. The fully-assembled missiles were loaded on the boats by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Intelligence officials declassified a photograph of an Iranian missile on a small boat in the Persian Gulf in their efforts to help show the increasing threat from Iran. The declassified photograph was not released by the Department of Defense.

JaskSatellite images provided exclusively to The Daily Beast by the company Planet Labs show that a component of the administration’s description of Iran’s aggressive behavior—an apparent positioning of Iranian missiles onto boats known as dhows — may not be as clear in commercial imagery as anonymous administration officials claimed it to be in statements to other publications.

The satellite imagery, analyzed by experts from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, shows an unusual amount of vehicle activity on the docks beside small boats at the Bandar-e-Jask base on 02 May 2019. In the Planet Labs images of the area, 16 trucks and 10 other vehicles parked on the docks are visible carrying containers beside 19 dhow-type boats. Most of those trucks visible at the port had a flatbed approximately seven meters long [that is, a standard 20-foot half-length cargo container] and one truck appears laden with a container approximately 13-14 meters long [that is, a standard 40-foot cargo container].

“The trucks are relatively small and any missile would be inside a container. The problem is we don’t know what’s inside the containers, if anything at all,” said Jeffrey Lewis, who analyzed the imagery for The Daily Beast. “It’s interesting but at most it’s a small, niche capability.”

"The most likely candidates are anti-ship cruise, anti-ship ballistic, or short-range ballistic missiles,” says Behnam Ben Taleblu, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “The dispersal and shipment of any of these systems would go a long way towards understanding Iranian patterns of escalation and responses to pressure.”

JaskArming small fishing vessels of various sizes is not a "small, niche capability", but rather seems probably the core of the IRGCN's wartime concept of operations. The larger fishing vessels of about 100 tons, of which there are hundreds, could carry anti-shipping cruise missiles. The medium size fishing vessels of a few dozen tons, of which there are over a thousand, could carry a barrage launcher of 107 mm Fadjr1 rockets, with the 16 tube for marine forces used as their launchers. These artillery rockets could damage the superstructure of oil tankers, and force the dis-abled ship to require towboats. And the thousands of small fishing vessels, little better than speedboats, can carry tripod mounted heavy machine guns that can harrass oil tanker crews. All these weapons can be held in storage, and mounted on suitable vessels in a matter of days.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy probably has a few hundred small surface craft, most armed with missiles or rockets, with which to harrass oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. There are also many hundreds of larger fishing vessels [dhows], and thousands of smaller fishing dhows. These vessels could all be equiped with artillery rockets or anti-shipping cruise missiles, increasing the IRGCN threat by an order of magnitude. The IRGCN has a total of approximately 25,000 personnel. Of these, about 300 would be assigned to the 10 Thonadar class Fast Attack Craft, and another 500 or so to the 70+ Patrol, Fasat, Inshore craft. The 200 or so Patrol Craft Inshore might require another 1,000 crew members, at most, while the remainder of the IRGCN fleet might need another 500 sailors, for a total of 2,300 sailors. That is, less than one tenth the IRGCN headcount is assigned to at-sea duties.

The general pattern in American forces - Army and Navy - is that about half the headcount is deployable, while the other half represents to support establishment [training bases, logistics, fixed base comms, etc]. So an IRGCN sailor might well ask "where's the rest of me?" Of the 25,000 IRGCN personnel, some 12,500 should be deployable, yet only 2,300 can be accounted for by in-commission assets. What do the other 10,000 IRGCN sailors do for a living.

Probably they constitute the crew that would man Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT) mobilized in crisis for war. The 10,000 IRGCN sailors could proably man several thousand such craft, which is in the ballpark of the number of available dhows. This mobilized reserve fleet would be roughly ten times larger than the day to day active component fleet, which must be regarded as a training formation, rather than the main combat force.

This may help explain why the US Government became so alarmed by Iranian activity in May 2019, when missiles were seen being loaded on small civilian boats. While the boats themselves might be threatening, the real threat was that this was an indicator of Iranian transitioning to a wartime posture. Evidently this escalation did to extend to the full scale arming of the civilian fleet. An Iranian university paper published in 2000 did discuss the prospect of loading ballistic missiles onto boats.

The term "militarily-useful vessels" is defined as vessels that could be requisitioned in appropriate circumstances in support of a armed forces. This process is also known as STUFT (ship taken up from trade), it refers to a civilian ship requisitioned for government use.

The dependence on Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT) in order to fight a war is nothing new. Going back to 1588 and beyond, there was hardly an occasion when this was not the case. Since Alfred the Great, the British monarch had been wont to call upon his subjects to furnish and man ships under the same feudal system that enabled him to raise armies. Although the death of the feudal system is generally taken to coincide with that of Richard III in 1485, and although his Tudor successors set about building a professional Navy complete with specialised ships suitable only for combat, of about 140 fighting ships which took part in the Armada campaign, only three dozen were the Queen’s and not all of those had been built as warships. The rest were merchantmen, volunteered by their owners or by the loyal burgesses of cities.

In America, the War of 1812 was largely fought on the American side by small merchant vessels, granted Letters of Marque and Reprisal. The extensive use of privateers, or legalised pirates, was not at all uncommon. All the maritime powers found this form of contract piracy useful; the French and Spanish were frequently reduced to employing it as the main offensive weapon in their wars against Britain.

In the 20th Century, the warship was of totally different construction to the merchantman. Revolutions in propulsion, armament and protection had changed the shape and internal arrangements to the extent that the removal of the converted merchant ship from the line of battle was irreversible. But during the Great War, the Royal Navy requisitioned a huge number of ships for the ‘non-traditional’ tasks created by the new forms of warfare, particularly mines and submarines. At least 151 ships of all sizes were commissioned as ASW escorts and Q-Ships and 84 were taken up as minesweepers, but besides these there were yachts, trawlers and drifters of the Auxiliary Patrol – 3,301 of these were wearing the White Ensign by January 1918.

DunkirkAs France collapsed in the first two weeks of May 1940, the ten-division British Expeditionary Force (BEF) barely escaped envelopment. In their flight from Dunkirk, the BEF abandoned its light and heavy weapons, vehicles, and equipment. The Royal Navy, sorely bereft of amphibious vessels, commandeered some 850 private pleasure yachts, coastal shipping and fishing boats, and ferries to rescue the BEF soldiers. The Little Ships of Dunkirk evacuated more than 338,000 troops from the coast of France in Operation Dynamo. Merchant marine conversions comprised about half of the assault shipping which was to fire the Royal Navy’s traditional projectile – the British Army – at a wide variety of beaches between 1942 and 1945.

The US Coast Guard Reserve Act of 1939, passed on June 23 of that year, created an institution that was unique in the federal government. By June of 1940 the Coast Guard had enrolled twenty-six hundred men and twenty-three hundred boats in the Coast Guard Reserve. Early in 1942 five German U-boats arrived off the east coast of the United States, inaugurating the heartbreaking season known as "Bloody Winter." Motorboats and sailing yachts, with depth charges stowed awkwardly on their decks, began appearing on patrol stations all along the coasts. Motorboats and sailing yachts, with numbers preceded by "CGR" painted on their bows and depth charges stowed awkwardly on their decks, began appearing on patrol stations all along the coasts.

Almost all of the IRGCN combatant force already consists of military conversions of civilian vessels. The further conversion of much of the civilian Iranian fleet to carry weapons, including anti-shipping missiles of some sort, would be only a small step. The resulting fleet would be very un-American, but it would represent a return to that time when the US Constitution granted the Congress the power to "grant letters of Marque and Reprisal" - with Islamic Revolutionary characteristics.

Dhow Dhow Dhow

“Dhow” is an Arabic name for small boats that have traditionally been a primary mode of transportation not only for the traders but also for smugglers in India, East Africa, and the Middle East. The word dhow, commonly applied by Europeans to any traditional seafaring vessel used off the coast of East Africa, is generally assumed to be Arabic in origin. The term “Dhow” is probably of Swahili origin, referring to the generic name of a number of traditionally-constructed vessels used as the primary maritime commercial mode of transportation throughout the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean.

The structure and shape of Dhows differentiate them from other types of merchant vessels. One of a Dhow’s greatest strengths is simplicity of design to maximize open hull cargo capacity and utility. The word Dhow is not commonly used by the Dhow community itself, who usually refer to the specific type of vessel according the shape of the hull. Despite a historical attachment to Arab traders, Dhows are essentially an Indian boat. Presently, the vast majority of Dhows are powered by diesel engines and often supplemented by sail. An increasing number of Dhows are built of fiber glass instead of wood, and are growing in size with less strict characteristics from the former Dhow types.

A dhow can carry a load of between 500 and 1500 tons. It is less expensive by 40 percent as compared to other ships of the same size and capacity. Also, it is imperative to note that dhows carry legitimate goods for commerce, not just for smuggling. Crew sizes vary between 5-30, depending on the size and use of the Dhow. Smaller Dhows may have 5-12, medium sized 14-20 and larger Dhows 21-30. Even today, general crew are often made up of individuals without formalized seamanship or fishery training. Few captains own their own Dhows, and crews are relatively poorly paid.

There are numerous types of Dhows. Some sources claim there are 13 main types with more than 200 distinct designs. There are different types of Dhows for deep sea and shallow waters, and they are used for all types of transportation and fishing. Dhows can travel into waters too shallow for modern steel-hull commercial vessels, and conduct cargo on-load or off-load with or without port facilities or external cargo handling equipment. Dhows are differentiated based on size and hull design a s well as regional variation in both color and decoration. . Especially the Dhow’s wheelhouse and other superstructure can be carved with artful woodwork design.

A Skiff is a small boat. There are a number of different craft which are called Skiffs. Traditionally these are coastal or river craft used for leisure or fishing. Skiffs are used for fishing, as well as legal and illegal local transport. When pirates attack merchant ships skiffs are often launched from mother ships (Dhows) and used to catch up to the vessel, intimidate the ship’s crew by firing at the ship, and finally for boarding the merchant ship.

A Whaler is traditionally known as a type of open boat that is relatively narrow and pointed at both ends so it can move either forward or backwards equally, and developed for whaling. The term Whaler was once used for larger ships specially designed for catching and/or processing whales. Now the term “Whaler” is used for larger and broader Skiffs up to 10 meters in length.

A medium-sized Dhow with 165 horsepower diesel engine can make between 16 and 21 km/h [10 to 15 knots]. Fast going narrow Skiffs with powerful engines than this one are able to reach speeds up to 30 kts. Despite revolutionary advances in technology during the last century, the small boat, commonly referred to as a dinghy, punt, skiff and tender has undergone very little basic change since primitive man first hollowed out a tree log and set himself afloat. Recent years have seen a phenomenal growth in the popularity of water related recreational activities. To satisfy this demand, the small boat industry has brought forth a wide range of models from which to chose. Unfortunately, however, these have generally been of the fixed size and shape mono-hull type; similar in basic respect to primitive man's hollowed log. As such, when mishandled or over-loaded, they are prone to capsize.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 11-07-2019 11:06:45 ZULU