Surface Forces: August 6, 2004


The U.S. Navy is eliminating the use of cash on ships in order to cut crew size. The navy, taking its cue from civilian ship design over the past half century, is embracing all manner of automation ideas to cut the size of ship crews. Along those lines, the navy is planning on replacing the use of cash on board ship with debit cards. The navys twelve large carriers have over 5,000 people running each of them, and many are there to take care of housekeeping tasks. This includes handling the millions of dollars in cash transactions made by the crew in the course of a voyage. Large ships have several ship stores and hundreds of vending machines that are heavily used. When you count up the man hours used to deal with all the cash, you find that you can cut the crew by a dozen or more people by going cashless. So the navy has introduced debit cards for sailors. The cards, called Navy Cash, are linked to the whatever bank accounts the sailor wants, and are part of a new program that makes it easier for sailors at sea to transfer funds back home. Right now, only 25,000 sailors have the cards, but vending machines and ships stores have been equipped to handle the cards, which can also be used as a regular credit card off the ship. Eventually, the ships will go cashless. Well, not completely. Sailors will still want cash for shore leave, but the navy can arrange for that to be made available by civilian contractors in ports to be visited. 

The cashless program is one of several to use computers and networks to replace people on board. The navy has also been transferring most of its paper manuals to electronic formats (databases and CDs). Getting rid of the manuals saves a lot of space, and means fewer man hours spent keeping track of tons of publications. The shipboard Internet and the use of PDAs also made a lot of administrative work easier, or no longer neccessary. Cell phone capability is also being added to ships at sea, making it much easier to get things done. 


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