FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        MAR 12-96
Wednesday, December 4, 1996                  Contact:  John Swank
                                             Tel.: (202) 366-5807
Support for America s Sealift Strengthened
Cape Kennedy and Cape Knox
Added to Ready Reserve Force

Two Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships, the Cape Kennedy and Cape Knox, were introduced to the New Orleans maritime community during a formal morning ceremony at the Poland Street Wharf in New Orleans today. As critical components of the RRF, the ships will provide prompt sealift support in the event they are needed for the rapid deployment of U.S. military forces for either peacekeeping or humanitarian response missions.

In keeping with President Clinton's determination to maintain America s military sealift capability, John E. Graykowski, Deputy Maritime Administrator, underscored the critical role of the RRF. The Ready Reserve Force serves as the linchpin between America s factories and the frontline. The RRF is there, providing prompt and effective sealift support for our nation whenever and wherever it s required. And they ve been there -- in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, and in Bosnia, he said.

Ready Reserve Force ships are kept in a high state of readiness, enabling them to be activated in 4, 5, 10 or 20 days to meet surge military sealift requirements in the event of war.

The RRF was established by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the Navy in 1976 and operates under the Navy s Military Sealift Command when activated. The 94 ships now in the RRF would require more than 2,900 merchant mariners to crew them.

MARAD maintains partial crews on a number of RRF ships to ensure their readiness to meet emergency requirements. Other crew members come from the pool of skilled civilian American seafarers whose normal jobs are aboard the tankers, grain carriers, containerships and other U.S.-flag merchant ships serving the nation s domestic and international commerce.

Graykowski praised the recent overwhelming bipartisan passage of the Maritime Security Act, which seeks to guarantee the United States will continue to have a fleet of U.S.-flag commercial cargo vessels. The landmark legislation will support an active, privately owned, U.S.-flag and U.S.-crewed merchant shipping fleet that will provide sustainment sealift capability in war or national emergency. The Maritime Security Act is the most important piece of maritime legislation in a quarter century, said Graykowski.

Under the Maritime Security Program, the government will contract with owners and operators of U.S.-flag commercial ships employing U.S. citizen crews. The vessels must be militarily useful and be available to carry sustainment supplies and other military equipment to troops in areas of conflict.

Facts about the Cape Kennedy and Cape Knox

Stern and side ramps characterize the Cape Kennedy and Cape Knox as roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) vessels, enabling wheeled cargoes to be driven on and off for loading and discharge much faster than conventional ships and ten times faster than those used in World War II. This exceptional flexibility eases the rapid handling of trailers, rolling stock, containers, and extra heavy lift cargoes required in military contingencies.

Each of the vessels has a total of 155,000 square feet of deck space on three cargo decks with connecting ramps to move cargo between the decks. The vessels are 700 feet long (longer than two football fields) and 106 feet wide. Operating draft (depending on cargo load) is 25 - 28 feet. With a service speed of 18.5 knots, the vessels have an operating range of more than 21,000 nautical miles.

MARAD maintains these ships in reduced operating status with 10-person crews, ready for sailing within four days notice. In deployed operations, these ships are crewed by 28 skilled American civilian seafarers belonging to the American Maritime Officers Union and the Seafarers International Union. Both the Cape Kennedy and Cape Knox are operated for MARAD by Keystone Shipping Company and will be home ported at the Poland Street Wharf in New Orleans.