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Press Release

MSC PAO 97-7
February 14, 1997
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Nancy Breen
(202) 685-5055

MSC awards contract for first MPF(E) ship

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command awarded a firm, fixed price contract in the amount of $145.7 million to Tarago Shipholding Corporation of Bethesda, Md., for the conversion and operation and maintenance of MV Tarago, a 754 foot, Bahamian flagged, roll-on/roll-off vessel. Of the total contract award amount, $100 million is for the conversion work, and $45.7 million is for the operation and maintenance of the ship for the first five years. Before the ship is delivered to MSC, it will be reflagged in the United States and renamed USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve lieutenant who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jima on March 16, 1945.

Upon delivery to MSC, the vessel will become the first ship in the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced), or MPF(E), program. This contract award is for Phase II of the MPF(E) program—the conversion of an existing ship—and Phase III—the operation and maintenance of that ship for the first five years following delivery to MSC. Conversion work will be accomplished by Atlantic Drydock of Jacksonville, Fla. and will include structural work to allow greater and more efficient cargo capacity as well as the addition of cranes and other modifications to make the ship suitable for its prepositioning role.

The MPF(E) procurement program is a three-phase program designed to increase the capability of the three existing Maritime Prepositioning Ship squadrons through the addition of a converted ship to each of the squadrons. Phase I of the program was executed in April 1996 when the Naval Sea Systems Command awarded five engineering design contracts for the conversion of an existing ship to an MPF(E) ship. The contract award by Military Sealift Command constitutes Phase II and Phase III of the process. Phase II is the selection of a contractor to proceed with the conversion of an existing vessel, and Phase III is for the operation and maintenance of that ship for the first five years following conversion. NAVSEA is conducting a follow-on procurement to provide up to two more MPF(E) ships.

MPF(E) ships will solve the problem of cargo space constraints experienced during the past decade in the existing Maritime Prepositioning Force. Equipment growth has required that ships with larger cargo capacities be added to the existing MPF. The converted ships will be used in both roll-on, roll-off and lift-on, lift-off modes, will be able to discharge both a pierside and in-stream as well as transit both the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal.

The concept of prepositioning came into its own in the early 1980's, when 13 Maritime Prepositioning Ships, five new construction and eight conversions, were added to the Military Sealift Command fleet. The 13 MPS are privately owned vessels chartered to the U.S. Navy and operated by civilian mariners employed by a company under contract to MSC. They carry heavy equipment and cargo for the U.S. Marine Corps.

In a crisis situation, Marine Corps personnel are flown to a contingency site concurrent with MPS ship sailings. Once personnel have arrived in the theater of operations, the ships are off-loaded and Marines can move quickly into combat with the necessary equipment and supplies. The 13 ships currently in the Maritime Prepositioning Force are divided into three squadrons which operate in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean. Each of the four-to-five ship squadrons can carry all of the equipment and supplies to support a Marine Air-Ground Task Force of about 17,300 people for a period of 30 days.

MPS ships are capable of off-loading at piers or from offshore with special equipment. In addition, the ship's roll-on, roll-off ramps are ideal for the fast off-loading of wheeled and tracked vehicles. Each ship has a flight deck for helicopter operations but carries no operational aircraft.