Sea Transportation: The U.S. Navy's Secret Shipping Weapon


September 17, 2005

Maersk Line, a Norfolk, Virginia ship management firm, has won the contract to staff and run the U.S. Navys eight T-AKR class fast transports (Algol , Altair, , Antares, Bellatrix, Capella, Denebola, Pollux and Regulus). Maersk Line will get $3.25 million a year to provide a crew (42 sailors) for each ship, as well as  maintenance and repairs.

These are the fastest cargo ships in service, able to maintain sustain speeds of over fifty kilometers an hour (1,200 kilometers a day). When the ships were built in the early 1980s, it turned out that there was not enough commercial business to make them economically viable. But the Department of Defense quickly figured out that such ships could be very useful militarily. And they have been. So the navy bought them. 

These Fast Sealift ships can make it from the east coast of the United States to the Persian Gulf in 18 days (via the Suez Canal). These ships are of a roll-on/roll-off and lift-on/lift-off design. They are equipped with on-board cranes and self-contained ramps, which enable them to land their cargoes at a large number of ports lacking proper docks and cranes. The ships are 946 feet long, and displace 61,000 tons. The largest warships in the navy are the large carriers, which are 1,000 feet long and displace 100,000 tons. Two of these cargo ships are all that is needed to carry one of the new heavy Brigade Combat Teams.




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