CHUK SAMET, Thailand - Military Sealift Command (MSC) chartered ship M/V Cape Hudson (T-AKR 5066) continued its voyage through the Pacific and arrived in Thailand to offload equipment in support of exercise Cobra Gold 2019, Jan. 21-25.
The Cape Hudson began the voyage from its home base in San Francisco and took on cargo in Tacoma, Wash., Hawaii, Guam, and Japan.
Thailand was the first point of discharge at the ports of Thung Prong and Chuk Samet and the ship offloaded approximately 435 end items and containers in about four days. Cape Hudson departed Thailand Jan. 25 and journeys to its next port to offload more equipment for other missions.
The Cape Hudson is a 750-foot long roll-on, roll-off cargo vessel with four decks of cargo space. The ship can accommodate 186,000 sq. ft. of cargo, which equates to about 4.3 acres of space that can equal roughly 38,000 tons of cargo.
“The customers have been very happy with this ship,” said civilian mariner Capt. Donald Sacca, ship’s master, M/V Cape Hudson. “They picked this ship in particular because of its size.”
The voyage charter is part of a mobility operation for U.S. Army Pacific called Pacific Pathways 19-1, where the ship hops around the Pacific region supporting follow-on missions. Pacific Pathways is an innovation that links a series of U.S. Pacific Command-directed Security Cooperation exercises with allied and partner militaries to a single MSC charter vessel on a single voyage plan that delivers equipment to support the various exercises. The Pacific Pathways concept commits a designated task force and its force package equipment to the entire duration of a pathway.
As a commercial ship that is part of the Ready Reserve Force fleet of vessels, the Cape Hudson has also supported many other military charters including OIF deployments in 2003 and 2004.
Although customer satisfaction is an important metric, the uniqueness of the mission to a commercial vessel was not lost on the ship’s crew.
“I consider myself lucky that I’m on the ship that was selected for this mission and it has been a lot of fun and hard work,” said Sacca, a 30-year mariner. “It’s amazing and everybody has been very happy. Commercial ships don’t usually get to go to these ports anymore; they go to the mega-container hubs, so this is a really good opportunity for the crew.”
To support the smooth discharge of equipment, MSC’s Pearl Harbor, Hawaii-based Expeditionary Port Unit 115 (EPU 115) deployed a seven-member team to assist with port operations.
“This year, EPU 115 is supporting Cobra Gold in the deployment and redeployment phases,” said Navy reserve component Cmdr. Donald Moore, commanding officer, EPU 115. “We deployed out to Thailand from Pearl Harbor and established a presence at the port of Thung Prong to prepare for the arrival and discharge of the Cape Hudson. This involved meeting with the various service components, ship’s agent, and ship’s leadership.”
According to Moore, an EPU is a highly mobile unit that can deploy rapidly anywhere in the world to support overseas contingency operations, setup port operations and establish presence where there is no MSC or U.S. Navy support established in order to receive cargo ships: government owned, government contracted or chartered ships.
EPUs play a crucial role that is sometimes overlooked. Their contributions are not tethered to certain tasks or responsibilities but on providing expertise in varying situations, sort of a catchall as it relates to their sea-fairing background.
“There’s a maritime aspect that’s found in the surface warfare (SWO) and strategic sealift officer (SSO) communities that you may not find in the land-based components,” said Moore.
“The leadership of EPUs are drawn from these SWO and SSO communities. Sometimes it’s difficult to quantify what we do; we husband the ship, but that could be anything. There are a lot of moving parts that come into play when you bring a ship in.”
MSC operates approximately 120 non-combatant, 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.