USNS Montford Point, USNS Dahl demonstrate seabasing capability

Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) expeditionary transfer dock USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1) and maritime prepositioning force (MPF) ship USNS Dahl (T-AKR 312) performed a “skin-to-skin” (S2S) maneuver to demonstrate MSC’s unique seabasing capability, July 21-22.

The event displayed the two ships’ ability to transfer large cargo, such as vehicles, at sea.

The S2S maneuver was achieved by the two ships connecting while Montford Point acted as a floating pier for a simulated offload.

Montford Point is categorized as an expeditionary floating pier-at-sea. The ship is tasked to the Marine Corps to provide a pier-at-sea to move and transfer cargo from large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ships onto Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vessels to provide seabasing capabilities for the Navy and the Marine Corps. Montford Point and Dahl are both part of Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron (MPSRON) 3.

“Montford Point provides combatant commanders the ability from over the horizon to transfer and deliver personnel and equipment ashore to a limited or unavailable port,” said Navy Capt. Eric C. Lindfors, commodore, MPSRON-3. “This ability provides a unique capability within the [U.S.] 7th Fleet area of responsibility, enabling instream operations from a variety of non-traditional locations.”

Though no equipment was transferred during this event, during a full demonstration Dahl can discharge equipment onto Montford Point through a connecting ramp. The equipment can then be loaded into LCACs for transfer to shore, further enhancing Marine Corps and naval integration.

The two MSC ships conducted the two separate events in consecutive days, further displaying the potential routine nature of such an event when tasked during ideal conditions.

In a S2S operation, the ships navigate alongside and are moored together. Once connected, the MPF ship lifts Montford Point’s ramp with her shipboard crane and connects it to the MPF ship. Once the ramp is connected, vehicles and cargo can be rolled on and off with efficiency.

A strong advantage for the pier-at-sea concept includes being able to move at will so as to not become a possible target to unfriendly forces. The makeshift pier can operate 25 miles off shore and still provide support for military services.

When Montford Point is on mission, the ship submerges to about 40 feet while underway to the area of operations. Once on station it submerges to about 50 feet, so LCACs can maneuver right up on the mission deck to pick up cargo. This allows Montford Point to operate like a floating pier and will serve as a transfer point for Marine Corps amphibious landing forces.

“An inherent challenge we face is purely a numbers game of two crews on Montford Point and two crews on each of the LMSRs she conducts operations with,” said Lindfors. “Capturing the lessons learned from these quarterly events is critical to gaining efficiency, maintaining safety and ensuring our mariners have the proficiency needed when called upon.”

Montford Point’s flexibility is critical for humanitarian response to natural disasters and for support to warfighters ashore. The size allows for 25,000 square feet of vehicle and equipment stowage space and 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel storage.