Sea Transport

Pacific Operations > Sea Transport

Internationally there has been considerable interest in the class of Landing Platform Dock (LPD)s. These ships carry army elements to their destination where they either swim in amphibious vehicles or ride aboard landing craft ( boats or hovercraft) or fly via helicopter or V-22, to shore.
The United States has developed the extremely capable but immensely expensive San Antonio Class which can land a Battalion of Marines from CH53 and V-22 aircraft plus amphibious hovercraft and the new high speed amphibious armoured personnel carriers. The ship boasts a fully fledged hospital and significant weaponry. However even the Americans consider the cost of these ships to have become outrageous at US$1.76 billion- even more than the cost of a high-tech Aegis air-defence cruiser!

The British Albion Class is not quite so aggressive. This ship carries 305 passengers with a curiously large crew of 325 some 8000 nautical miles at up to 18 knots. Like the San Antonio it lands amphibious vessels by flooding a dock in the rear of the ship. It is, however another ridiculously expensive vessel costing 359 million pounds

The Australians are investing $2 billion to replace their current pair of Landing Platform Dock ships Manoora and Kanimbla. The designs are not yet finalised but the designs are similar to the 9,000- 14,000 tonne Enforcer series built for the Dutch and Spanish (at the Royal Dutch schelde yard) starting with Rotterdam. Rotterdam carries a whole Battalion of 600 including four helicopters and 90 armoured vehicles. The hospital can accomodate 100 with two operating theatres. She carries four EC101 helicopters, 90 armoured vehicles. Her crew is a more reasonable 127. The enforcer ships make extensive use of "commercial off the shelf technology" but will cost around 500 million Euros.

Singapore has developed its own 6,000 tonne landing vessel as part of the Endurance Class. Officially RSS Endurance is a Landing Ship Tank but in fact she is a Landing Platform Dock.  Like the others Endurance too can land a battalion has scope for two medium helicopters, has a small hospital and a light gun for fire support and ensuring the respect of pirates. This ship follows the same pattern but is almost exactly half the size of the Enforcers with a crew of only 65. Endurance was one of the first military vessels on the scene to offer aid in Indonesia after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Although she was able to eventually land her amphibious craft the re-shaping of the seabed by the force of the Tsunami caused delays as mariners sought to establish how close they dare go to shore. New Zealand Ministry of Defence papers talk in terms of $440 million to replicate this ship.

The New Zealand Multi Role Vessel Canterbury is based on a commercial ro-ro ship in operation in the Irish Sea. She was built in the Netherlands by shipyard Merwelde.The Canterbury will weigh 6000 tonnes accommodate a total of 360 personnel, including a core ship's company of 53, a flight of 10, four government agency officers, a permanent team of seven Army personnel, and up to 35 trainees and 250 embarked troops. Canterbury can carry a New Zealand Army infantry company's light armoured vehicles and other equipment, and have the space to move Defence Force equipment for operations similar to the recent Solomon Islands and East Timor deployments. She is fitted out so she can fulfil humanitarian and emergency responses involving multi-agency personnel and equipment in the South Pacific. She can be quickly reconfigured for a number of different roles, and she will be able to operate autonomously during disaster relief, transferring cargoes and personnel ashore when port facilities are not available.

The Australian company Incat wowed US Navy planners when HMAS Jervois Bay, a converted fast ferry, showed her stuff during the East Timor deployment. Fast ferries can carry significant cargoes at three times the speed of larger ships and the US has begun exploring ways of using wave-peircing catamarrans as part of its Litoral Combat Ship programme. However it must be pointed out that the distance across the Timor Sea is considerably less than the distance between New Zealand and nearly anywhere. Incat writes the Incat HSV was a fast ferry that underwent

"a major refit in September 2001 with innovative design and construction, the craft has been upgraded and fitted with military enhancements such as a helicopter deck, stern quarter ramp, RIB deployment gantry crane, troop facilities for 363 persons, crew accommodation, storage facilities, medical facilities, long range fuel tanks and C4ISR room. After enhancements the craft has a loaded draft of 3.67 metres (12 feet) and a total operating deadweight of 740 tonnes (815 short tons), and almost doubling the required deployment capability with an all-up range of over 4500 nautical miles. With all improvements added, the vessel is able to transport a specified cargo load of at least 422 short tons over a range of 1110 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in sea state 3. Alternatively, a specified cargo load of 545 short tons over a range of 600 nautical miles in sea state 3 is available."

However when Incat writes it has facilities for 363 persons it means that it can seat them. What is obvious from these specifications is that this ship is not really capable of a mission carrying a company of troops ( about 200 troops) 1,800 nautical miles ( at least three days at 24 knots) and landing them in good condition at the other end.

There are two transport ships worth taking a look at. These are not Landing Platform Docks but freighter-passenger ships. They are the MV Aranui-3, a civilian trader which plies the seas between Tahiti and the Marquesas (available for holidays as well) and the Chilean navy transport AP41 Aquiles.

The Aranui-3 is slightly larger (left) at 3,200T dwt is slightly larger than the Aquiles  1850T dwt, (below). The ships are similar in that they carry 200-250 people have crews of 80 and self-loading cranes for their forward holds. Both have a range of 7000 nautical miles and differ in that Aquiles has a helipad where Aranui has a swimming pool for tourists. Both have shallow 5m draughts. Aquiles, designed by Cleaver and Walkinstall of Canada and built by Chilean yard ASMAR in 1989 is however Lloyds ice class 1B and operates in Chile's Southern and Antarctic regions providing logistic support to Chiles bases there. Visitors (she carries civilians to Chile's bases on the ice) report she is a functional ship but her crew like her. Aranui was built in 2000. It is fascinating to note that while the military sea-lift vessels cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build the Aranui-3 cost just US$22 million.

The main drawback of the Aranui and Aquiles is they cannot land vehicles except by lifting them out of the hold and placing them in the sea. This is a rather time-consuming operation and is very inefficient in terms of hold space. By contrast VT Halter Marine's Landing Ship Tank design is ideal for transporting vehicles and freight from a dock in New Zealand to any beach in the Pacific.

The Landing Ship Tank is used by the US Army based out of Hawaii. The ship is 100m long and weighs 6,000 tonnes with a draft of 4 metres. One ship can carry 82 TEU containers or up to 24 battle tanks. It can deliver a load half this size up to 5,500 nautical miles sailing at 12 knots. The ship can accomodate a helipad behind the funnel. The latest ship in this class Robert Smalls was built for US$26 million.