USA. Ceremony marks Austal built WestPac Express's five year anniversary with Marines Print E-mail
Monday, 30 October 2006
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Since its arrival in Okinawa on July 11, 2001 for a three month ‘proof of concept’ charter, the Austal built “WestPac Express” has been quietly redefining the transportation and logistics support role of the Okinawa based Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) of the United States Marine Corps.

The success of that transformation was formally recognised this week with a ceremony marking the versatile high speed vessel’s fifth year of continuous and successful service to III MEF.

With the capacity to lift 530 tons of equipment at a sustained speed of 33 knots over a distance of 1240 nautical miles “WestPac Express” has, in the past five years, steamed over 310,000 miles, carried 77,000 military personnel and 69,000 tonnes of equipment, while achieving a technical reliability of 99.7%.

Brig. Gen. Peter J. Talleri, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Logistics Group, spoke at the ceremony and praised the WestPac Express crew and Austal.

“These men certainly have both a great commitment to the HSV and unlimited talent,” Talleri said. “During all this time, they have demonstrated unmatched commitment. These five years of service are truly a testament to the quality of Austal and a reflection of the fidelity and dedication of the HSV's crew.”

“The vessel recently conducted an exercise in which the ship carried 890 Marines, 63 vehicles, and 23 containers of baggage and equipment in one lift. It would have required sixteen C-17 aircraft to complete the same mission.”

“WestPac Express” has proven to be the premiere force-multiplier within the III MEF area of responsibility.”

Since the HSV's inaugural mission, the ship has been a great asset to the command of III Marine Expeditionary Force, said Gunnery Sgt. Marvin E. HernandezGarcia, the III MEF HSV operations chief. Service members have been transported to support exercises such as Foal Eagle and Cobra Gold as well as the humanitarian operations following the devastating tsunami that struck Thailand in late 2004.

The HSV affords commanders the benefit of being able to move large amounts of personnel and supplies quickly, HernandezGarcia said.

“The most obvious benefit is that the WestPac Express provides III MEF with a lift capability that is reliable and responsive,” he said.

In 2005 “WestPac Express” assisted the III MEF to earn a Navy Unit Commendation with the citation noting that III MEF had, in its innovative use of the high speed vessel, “embraced emerging technologies and developed ground breaking logistical concepts in accordance with the office of the Secretary of Defence’s guidelines.”

Speaking at the ceremony, held on board the vessel at Naha Military Port, Okinawa Austal Executive Chairman, John Rothwell said,

“We are proud that our ongoing relationships with III MEF, Military Sealift Command and the US Navy, has allowed us to introduce and support the operation of high speed vessel technology into US defence applications, and we look forward to “WestPac Express” providing many more years of service to III MEF”.

“In parallel with our involvement in the operation of “WestPac Express” and the construction of the Littoral Combat Ship “Independence” we also look forward to developing the optimal solution for the requirements of the Joint High Speed Vessel programme to provide greater numbers of similar non-combatant vessels for global logistics and theatre support roles”.

Background

In 2000 when the first thoughts of replacing the previously unreliable and expensive air transport that was in use, the predominant need was the ability to transport an infantry battalion and their equipment in one lift whilst operating from austere ports without the use of tug boats. Whilst several shipping solutions were considered the need for high speeds and shallow draft clearly favoured existing large fast ferry technology as developed by Austal that was already in use with commercial operators worldwide.

Registered in the port of Mobile, Alabama where Austal is currently building a new generation combat ship for the US Navy, “WestPac Express” is primarily used to transport marines and their vehicles and equipment from their base in Okinawa to training locations in East and South Asia. She has also assisted in humanitarian operations such as the 2005 tsunami relief effort.
Last Updated ( Monday, 30 October 2006 )
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