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Press Release

MSC PAO 97-12
March 7, 1997
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Steve Rosa
(202) 685-5055

Capella, Strong Texan and Maersk
Constellation saving big bucks for
Defense Department

USNS Capella, MV Strong Texan and MV Maersk Constellation are pulling off one of the biggest feats in military expenditures--saving the U.S. military nearly $4.5 million. The three cargo ships--one government-owned and two long-term charters--are operated by Military Sealift Command for U.S. government ocean transportation needs.

The ships are delivering and returning equipment being used in the combined U.S./Australian military exercise Tandem Thrust '97 off the Australian coast. The exercise officially began March 1 and finishes March 22. Tandem Thrust involves more than 28,000 troops, 250 aircraft and 40 ships that are training U.S. 7th Fleet and Australian Defense Force staffs in crisis action planning and contingency response operations.

The savings results from employing a combination of ships from the MSC long-term-chartered fleet and a reduced-operating-status Fast Sealift Ship, or FSS. If Strong Texan and Maersk Constellation weren't available to assist, two Ready Reserve Force roll-on/roll-off ships or an FSS and one Ready Reserve Force ship would have been activated at a cost of approximately $9 million.

In late November 1996, Capella was activated and sailed to Beaumont, Texas, to pick up equipment from the Army's 25th Infantry Division which had been at Fort Polk, La., for training. After reaching Hawaii, MSC's Sealift Program made arrangements to layberth Capella in a reduced operating status at Ford Island Pier, an unused U.S. battleship berth at Pearl Harbor. Since Capella is nearly the size of an aircraft carrier, it needed a large space to tie up. After arriving, she remained in a reduced operating status at Ford Island until needed to deploy U.S. Army and Marine Corps equipment from Hawaii and Japan to Australia for Tandem Thrust. Capella returned to Ford Island Feb. 27, where she will remain in a reduced operating status until needed to redeploy the Army and Marine Corps equipment. After returning the equipment to bases in Hawaii and Japan, Capella will return to Baltimore.

Strong Texan, a long-term-chartered heavy lift ship, deployed some remaining Army equipment which was destined for Townsville, a small port in northeast Australia not capable of supporting a ship of Capella's magnitude. Strong Texan's normal operating schedule was adjusted to make it available for Tandem Thrust. Maersk Constellation will move cargo Capella cannot carry during the redeployment phase.

"Using the two active ships and by keeping Capella in relatively close proximity to the exercise area, the operating costs for delivering Tandem Thrust cargo were cut nearly in half for CINCPAC," said Peter Bullenkamp, MSC's Sealift Program director. "That savings was crucial to the exercise, since cargo delivery costs were only budgeted at approximately $4.6 million. Our partnerships with our layberth and operating companies enabled us to have the flexibility to do what needed to be done and do it in a manner that saved a huge sum of money for the government."

Normally layberthed in Baltimore, Md., in a reduced operating status, Capella is a Fast Sealift Ship -- one of a group of eight military cargo ships that are the fastest in the world. With speeds of up to 30 knots, Capella and her sister ships combined can deliver the equivalent of an Army mechanized division.