Fast Sealift and Maritime Prepositioning Options for Improving Sealift Capabilities

by Myron Hura, Richard Robinson

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This Note, based on research conducted between January 1988 and March 1990, considers (1) the extent to which future U.S. flag merchant ships and existing government and sealift programs can support potential future force deployments and (2) the kinds of ships that should be built if additional sealift capabilities are required. Existing civil shipping trends suggest that by the year 2010, the U.S. dry-cargo fleet may decrease to fewer than 100 ships, and that most of these will be container ships, which are not as useful as older ship designs for carrying military equipment. If this is the case, additional government-controlled ships may be needed. The authors examined three fast sealift and three alternative maritime prepositioning ships for carrying Army equipment, and evaluated their initial delivery and throughput capabilities to Europe, Southwest Asia, Zaire, and Thailand. No dominant candidate emerged from the analysis. A 33-knot large roll-on-roll-off ship delivered the most cargo over time, while a 33-knot maritime prepositioning ship provided the earliest deliveries. Policy decisions are required before a choice among the candidates can be made.

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