Whatever Floats Your Tank: the USN’s Improved Navy Lighterage System
Lighterage is about loading or unloading ships using lighters (barges) that can form a sort of ad-hoc ramp or shuttle from ships at anchor; they are often used when a port’s dockside is too shallow for the ship, or dockside berths are unavailable. These modules greatly expand landing options for well-equipped militaries, and may be versatile enough to be used in sea-based transfers as well. Even so, lighterage is one of those quiet enablers that rarely receives the attention it merits.
The INLS is made up of pontoon sections a.k.a. platforms. Different mixes of pontoon sections are used to make up different assemblies. The Causeway Ferry is used as a lighter for vehicles and large cargo from ship to shore, and has a top speed of 12 knots compared to 4.5 knots for its predecessor. There are 12 modules for 4 ferries, in a 4×3 arrangement where each ferry assembly comes with a Power section (with engine and controls), an Intermediate section, and a Beach section (with ramp). It takes less than 2 hours to assemble the causeway ferry at sea.
A different set of INLS sections can be assembled to make up a Roll-on/Roll-off Discharge Facility (RRDF): 1 docking module, up to 7 combination modules that can be fitted together in various ways, and 1 docking module. Warping tugs, also carried on MPF ships, work to push the RRDF the modules into place, and moving the completed discharge facility into position. Once complete, the 240×72 foot assembly becomes a floating transfer dock onto which Maritime Prepositioning Ships and others lower their ramps. It takes 18 – 24 hours to assemble the RRDF discharge facility, depending on waves and wind. The tactical vehicles and other rolling stock can roll down the ships’ ramps onto the RRDF, then onto waiting lighterage such as barge ferries or LCU landing craft.
RRDF also has obvious potential uses under the Navy’s proposed Seabasing doctrine, which would allow offloading, housing, and transfer of supplies for operations on land from floating platforms that could act as mobile bases. Since these sea-bases could be deployed in international waters, or near areas without convenient ports nearby, they would sharply expand the US military’s ability to project power from the sea. The INLS does not yet have a defined seabasing role, but recent exercises have begun to explore this capability.
The SeaBees have always been the buyers and maintainers of the pontoon based lighterage. The Amphibious Construction Battalions are the specialist operators, and NAVFAC gets its INLS procurement money from Navy N42 Strategic Mobility and Combat Logisitics Branch.
INLS in Use
At present, the older Navy Lighterage and the newer INLS are only carried on MSC’s Maritime Prepositioning Ships. Navy lighterage had been side loaded on LSTs since WW2, and subscriber Lee Wahler remembers carrying 4 pontoons on the USS Newport [LST-1179]. But the Navy has stopped doing that, as the number of LSTs has declined drastically and the navy is left with worn out lighterage sections that must be replaced.
The new INLS system begins to replace these worn out systems, and also has the advantage of operating in waters up to Pierson-Moskowitz Sea State 3 (3.5-4 foot high, regular waves). Previous lighterage systems had problems above Sea State 2.
Seen in this light, the new INLS lighterage buys are welcome contributions to an eroding capability. The longer term question is whether the US Navy is buying enough lighterage to meet its future needs, and make its seabasing doctrine and Maritime Prepositioning Force – Future (MPF-F) plans a reality. Ships may be sexy, but seabasing will depend on connectors.
The JHSV fast-ferry catamaran program saw the winning design selected in 2008, but deliveries and sea trials leave them a couple years away from mission service. While they can offload at austere ports, and will make excellent shuttles due to their speed, the last few feet to ships or beaches remains beyond their capabilities. The replacement for the 20+ year old LCAC hovercraft fleet is even further down the road, and their reliability levels and limitations in their operating hour lifespan make them questionable choices as the key connector option.
That leaves the unsexy – but ever so necessary – lighterage to fill the gap.
INLS: Contracts & Key Events
In August 2003, Marinette Marine Corp. in Marinette, WI won a firm-fixed-price contract for the manufacture of the new Improved Navy Lighterage System, including both powered and non-powered modules. The total contract could rise to $405 million if all options are exercised, and has. The completed systems are delivered at Naval Amphibious Construction Battalion One in Coronado, CA; Naval Amphibious Construction Battalion Two in Little Creek, Norfolk, VA; the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific; and Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, FL.
Unless otherwise noted, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters in Washington, DC issues these contracts to Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, WI. The basic contract was competitively procured via the NAVFAC e-solicitation website with 6 proposals received. The US Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters in Washington, DC manages the contract.
FY 2009 – 2013
Sept 5/13: Support. Wartsila Defense Industries in Chesapeake, VA receives a maximum $65 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract with for INLS water jet support, parts, and inventory management at Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, FL (50%); Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, VA (25%); and Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, CA (25%). Task order #0001 is being awarded at $8.8 million, and all of its funds are committed immediately.
The contract will run until September 2017, and work on the initial task order is expected to be complete by September 2014. This contract was a sole-source procurement pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, since RR Wartsalia is the manufacturer. US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Headquarters in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00025-13-D-0001).
March 2010: Haiti. US Military Sealift Command notes the use of INLS during the response to Haiti’s earthquake:
“RRF heavy-lift ship SS Cape May was loaded with the Navy’s most modern lighterage equipment – called the Improved Navy Lighterage System – in Norfolk and arrived Jan. 29, when the lighterage was offloaded and assembled.
While at anchor, Cape May provided berthing space and potable water for local personnel. The ship also had dock space available for maintenance on the lighterage systems, and remains on-station.”
May 11/09: Final 41. A $6.3 million modification under a firm-fixed-price contract, paid to deliver the final shipment of 41 INLS modules from Marinette, WI and Charleston, SC to naval installations. Destinations include Jacksonville, FL (40), and Little Creek, VA (1).
The total contract value after execution of this modification will be $405.6 million. Delivery will be complete by October 2009 (N00025-03-C-0002).
Jan 15/09: +1. A $5.8 million firm-fixed-price contract option item under the previously awarded “rotable pool” spares provision of the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) production contract. the contract will buy one warping tugboat, which is used to maneuver other INLS modules into place during amphibious landings. The total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $398.7 million.
Work will be performed at the shipyard in Marinette, WI , and the boat will be delivered in December 2009 (N00025-03-C-0002).
FY 2003 – 2008
May 29/08: +52. $6.2 million under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for the acquisition of Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) watercraft. All INLS craft are delivered FOB(Free On Board), and so this contract supplemental agreement is for transportation costs to deliver 52 INLS craft from the originating shipyards located in Marinette, WI, and Yonges Island, SC to destinations in Florida and Virginia.
The assumed destinations are NAB Little Creek and Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, and Blount Island Command near Jacksonville FL, where INLS are loaded onto Maritime Prepositioning Ships (N00025-03-C-0002).
The shipping company selected to transport all watercraft is Stevens Towing Company Inc. in Yonges Island, SC (92% of the value of this transportation agreement goes to Stevens Towing). Contract funds in the amount of $1.35 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The basic contract was competitively procured via the Naval Facilities Engineering Command e-solicitation website, with 6 proposals received and award made on Aug 12/03.
May 19/08: +22. $33.1 million under a previously awarded firm-fixed contract for the acquisition of 4 causeway ferries, which are available to be built under options 2 & 3 of the Improved Navy Lighterage System. This award also includes all 10 modules constituting a Roll On/Roll-Off discharge facility procured as separate modules under the rotable pool in option 4. Altogether, 22 separate watercraft are included: 3 modules for each of the 4 causeway ferrys (12 modules), plus 10 modules making up the RR/DF.
After exercise of these items, the total cumulative INLS contract amount will be $377.4 million. Work will be performed at the Marinette, WI (94%) and Yonges Island, SC (6%), and is expected to be complete in May 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $13.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00025-03-C-0002).
March 21/08: INLS is used as part of a sea basing exercise off the coast of Liberia, as part of Africa Partnership Station’s West Africa Training Cruise (WATC) 08. This marks the first time INLS is used successfully at sea to transport cargo from ship-to-ship and from ship-to-shore.
As a first step, sailors from Military Sealift Command’s USNS LCpl Roy M. Wheat [T-AK 3016] used their cranes and equipment to assemble the roll-on/roll-off discharge facility at sea, about 5 miles off of Liberia’s coast near Monrovia, and set up the INLS causeway ferries.
Once the INLS was assembled, cargo including trucks, equipment and humanitarian aid supplies were ultimately transferred at sea from T-AK 3016 Wheat, USNS 2nd Lt. John Bobo[T-AK-3008], and the amphibious landing ship USS Fort McHenry [LSD 43] to the MSC’s chartered high-speed catamaran Swift [HSV-2], which was docked at the constructed RRDF. Swift then ferried these humanitarian aid supplies to the Liberian port of Monrovia, where they were used to make deliveries to to a number of schools and medical clinics.
The vehicles were loaded directly from T-AK 3008 John Bobo to the INLS using cranes et. al., then transported over water using INLS causeway ferries to the USS Fort McHenry [LSD 43] where the ship’s crew and the members of Assault Craft Unit 2 attempted to dock an INLS structure into an amphibious transport’s rear well deck for the first time. Once the Sailors secured the INLS components in the well deck, members of the 4th Marine Logistics Group simply drove the vehicles off the platform rolling directly into the ship’s interior staging area.
While Fort McHenry’s crew worked on that exercise, T-AK 3008 John Bobo moored next to the INLS RRDF causeway. Once the exercise aboard LSD 43 was complete, the Marines reloaded the INLS and departed USS Fort McHenry to rendezvous with John Bobo, proving the ability to carry vehicles and cargo in the other direction from amphibious well decks to supply ships. Once the roll-on, roll-off discharge facility and causeway ferries were all together again, High Speed Vessel 2 Swift moored next to John Bobo, ready to receive Marine vehicles and supplies via the ramp module for transport to Monrovia. US MSC | US EUCOMM | USMC | Information Dissemination.
Dec 19/07: +35. A $65.3 million option is exercised under a previously awarded firm-fixed contract (N00025-03-C-0002) for the acquisition of the remaining watercraft to be built under option III of the Improved Navy Lighterage System. Two causeway ferries were recently procured with FY08 Continuing Resolution Authority funds. This action is for 8 more causeway ferries (8+2=10), 4 warping tugboats (used to guide and assemble sections in the water), and 1 Roll On/Roll Off Discharge facility. Altogether, 35 separate watercraft are included.
Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (94%) and Youngs Island, NC (6%), and work is expected to be complete by May 2010. After exercise of these items, the total cumulative contract value will be $333.6 million.
Nov 9/06: +300. $65.8 million under previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, exercising option 2 for the manufacture of the Improved Navy Lighterage System to be delivered at Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, FL. Work to be performed consists of manufacturing 300 powered and non-powered modules in Marinette, WI, and is expected to be complete in December 2007. Contractor approved detailed design drawings will be utilized for full rate production (N00025-03-C-0002).
May 10/06: +300. $126 million to exercise an option under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for the manufacture of the Improved Navy Lighterage System. Work to be performed consists of manufacturing 300 powered and non-powered modules. After exercise of this option, the total cumulative contract amount will be $170.4 million, and this contract contains two additional 1-year option periods which would bring the total contract value to $314.1 million.
Contractor-approved detailed design drawings will be utilized for full rate production; work will be performed in Marinette, WI and the expected completion date is December 2007, or October 2009 if all options are exercised (N00025-03-C-0002).
Aug 13/03: A $40.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to manufacture 29 powered and non-powered modules (floating barges) for the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS). This contract contains options which, if exercised, will bring the not-to-exceed total cumulative value of this contract to $404.8 million. Work is expected to be complete by January 2005 (N00025-03-C-0002).
Additional Readings and Sources
DID is indebted to NAVFAC and to subscriber Lee Wahler, whose previous experience in this area has been very helpful. Any mistakes, however, are solely our own.
- Information Dissemination (June 1/09) – Amphibious Operations and Sea Basing
- Information Dissemination (March 17/09) – The Amphibious Ship Plan Evolves Towards FY 2010
- Information Dissemination (March 26/08) – Observing the Sea Base Off Liberia
- US Navy (March 25/08) – APS Conducts West Africa Training Cruise ’08
- US EUCOM (March 24/08) – Marines, Sailors conduct landmark sea-basing exercise off the coast of Liberia
- Information Dissemination (March 23/08) – Navy and Marines Form First Sea Base off Liberia
- US Navy (March 20/08) – Military Sealift Command Ships Prepare for Sea-Basing Exercise in Africa
- US Navy (Oct 9/06) – Navy’s New Lighterage System Revolutionizes Ship-to-Shore Transport
- US Military Sealift Command, Sealift Magazine (July 2006) – Lopez tests new system for improved cargo off-loading
- Global Security (April 2002) – Improved Navy Lighterage System