MEDITERRANEAN SEA – Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn delivered vital fuel and supplies to Canadian navy ship HMCS Charlottetown April 29, the first replenishment at sea of a coalition ship by an MSC ship during Operation Unified Protector.
Unified Protector is the NATO-led operation to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas in Libya. The operation includes an arms embargo enforced by Charlottetown and other NATO warships and aircraft patrolling the approaches to Libyan territorial waters to reduce the flow of arms, related material and mercenaries to Libya.
Big Horn delivered 29,782 gallons of fuel to Charlottetown during the 44-minute evolution while operating alongside at 13 knots on a mostly cloudy day in the moderate seas of the central Mediterranean. This delivery allows Charlottetown to remain at sea, on station and mission ready, rather than having to disrupt operations and return to port for fuel.
“The evolution went very well,” said civil service Capt. Steven Karavolos, master of Big Horn. “We have conducted replenishments at sea with Canadian ships in the past, which creates the esprit de corps and camaraderie that is necessary to be able to perform evolutions like this one in the middle of real-world operations.”
Big Horn, in addition to MSC dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha, is operating out of Mediterranean ports where all three ships load food, fuel, mail, and other supplies for delivery to U.S. Navy and coalition ships operating at sea, as scheduled by Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa Commander/ Task Force 63, out of Naples, Italy.
Replenishments at sea, also called underway replenishments, allow the U.S. Navy and coalition navy ships to remain on station in the operating area, ready to respond to taskings from the NATO maritime component commander for Unified Protector, Italian Vice Adm. Rinaldo Veri.
“MSC ships continue to be a major lifeline for the sustainment of all ships that have been participating in Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jamie O’Leary, replenishment officer for CTF 63.
“Navy ships require the frequent movement of various commodities in order to continue operations,” said O’Leary. “Since the commencement of Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector, the U.S. and coalition ships have been required to remain at sea on station, thus our main method for cargo delivery is RAS from the Combat Logistics Force ships.”
All three MSC ships are crewed by civil service mariners working for MSC and small military departments of sailors who provide supply coordination. Big Horn is crewed by 83 civil services mariners and four sailors, Kanawha by 89 civil service mariners and three sailors, and Peary has a crew of 129 civil service mariners and 10 sailors.
As of March 24, ten nations, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States, had pledged more than 25 ships and submarines, as well as more than 50 fighter jets and surveillance planes to monitor and enforce the arms embargo mandated by the U.N.
Unified Protector transitioned to NATO on March 31 from the U.S.-led Operation Odyssey Dawn, which began March 19 to provide operational and tactical international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
Pictured: USNS Big Horn courtesy Military Sealift Command