Maritime Prepositioning Conversions Begin At Bethlehem's Beaumont Yard

The first midbody section built in Beaumont, Texas, for the Navy's Military Sealift Command's Maritime Prepositioning Ship program (MPS) was recently launched.

Thirteen Maritime Prepositioning Ships will be built from the keel up or converted from existing ships to join the Military Sealift Command fleet. All 13 ships will be named for Marine Corps Medal of Honor winners.

Bethlehem Steel Corp. shipyards in Beaumont, Texas, and Sparrows Point, Md., will convert five existing ships belonging to Maersk Lines Ltd. of New York.

The value for the contracts for Bethlehem is more than $600 million.

Five new ships will be built by General Dynamics. Waterman Steamship Corp. of New York will convert three ships at National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego, Calif.

The 13 ships will be used for mobile, long-term storage of equipment and supplies to meet the needs of three Marine Amphibious Brigades. The ships will be stationed at strategic locations around the world to provide a rapid deployment capability.

Sherman C. Perry, general manager of the Beaumont Yard, said that the TAKX reconstruction work has had a positive impact on employment. He noted that during peak construction periods some 1,000 additional employees will be working.

The 157-foot-long midbody will be joined to the bow and stern sections of the Eleo Maersk, the first of two ships to be reconstructed at the Beaumont facility. The second ship, the Emilie Maersk, will be lengthened early next year.

The Eleo Maersk will be separated at its midship and the new midbody added so that the ship's overall length will be extended from 592 feet to 775 feet. The external appearance of the Eleo Maersk will be changed by a nearly 16-foot increase in its depth resulting from the addition of an upper deck.

Other statistics of the ship include a 90-foot-wide beam, a 32- foot ten-and-a-half-inch full load draft, 28,249 long-tons light ship displacement and 46,552 long-tons full-load displacement. The ship will be equipped with a diesel engine which will provide a trial speed of 17.2 knots at 80 per cent horsepower. Its range will be 19,800 nautical miles.

Among the ship's facilities will be a 122,380-square-foot storage area; provisions for 340 containers for ammunition and refrigerated cargo; 1.3 million gallons of drummed and bulk petroleum products; 595,087 gallons of fuel oil and 133,246 gallons of potable water.

The Maritime Prepositioning Ship program is an integral element of the Rapid Deployment Force concept of operations. This concept forms the backbone of the U.S. immediate response capability throughout the world by providing for the rapid deployment of a large combat force with equipment and supplies for 30 days of sustained operations.

The concept calls for the transport by air of a Marine brigade of 12,000 men, an Army brigade of 5,000 men and a full Air Force wing to a friendly rendezvous point near the intended area of operations.

There, prepositioned supplies, staged in advance on U.S.

merchant ships near the rendezvous point, would be "married-up" with the personnel.

The MPS program makes the Rapid Deployment Force a workable concept. The 13 ships will support three separate brigades in action in three different military theaters. Each ship will carry equipment and supplies, including water and fuel, for one-fourth or one-fifth of a Marine Corps amphibious brigade. This load includes tanks, artillery, personnel carriers, ammunition, rations and medical supplies—anything which a combat unit would need.

The ships will have the internal capacity to load and unload at primitive ports and on isolated beaches. MPS ships will be manned by civilian crews.

MSC is responsible for providing the necessary sealift to deploy and sustain military forces overseas, as rapidly and for as long as operational requirements dictate. MSC also operates auxiliary ships that deliver supplies to Navy combatant ships while under way, oceanographic and survey ships, tankers and dry cargo ships that deliver Defense Department cargo worldwide.

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