Here’s a bit of news from the LNG World News website (1) that ought to have some bearing on Navy planning during a time of severely constrained budgets. Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, Inc., and Crowley Maritime Corporation have contracted to build four product tankers with options for four more. The contract value for the first four tankers is $500M or $125M each.
The ships are 50,000 dwt and incorporate numerous fuel efficiency features, flexible cargo capability, and the latest regulatory requirements according to the article.
What’s the relevance to the Navy? In previous posts and comments, we’ve discussed that many of the Navy’s cargo and personnel transport needs could be met with commercial ships as opposed to amphibious ships or other specialized military vessels. Further, we’ve noted that modified commercial ships could possibly be used for offshore basing of Army aviation units, SOF operations, MCM motherships, LCS motherships, and a host of other functions. When one looks at the price of the base ship and considers the functionality they could provide, this seems like a very viable option. Of course, the required functionality might increase the cost somewhat but none of these functions are that exotic and expensive and certainly would come nowhere near the multi-billion dollar costs for new amphibious ships.
We’ve already seen a bit of this occurring with the MLP builds. The use of commercial vessels should be expanded.
As a side note, the LCS was originally built to largely commercial standards and even now is being built to semi-commercial standards. One can’t help but wonder how a 50,000 dwt ship can be built for $125M while the 3,000 ton LCS base hull without government furnished equipment, weapons, sensors, electronics, and modules costs $350M - $400M.