Science and Technology News

Monday, March 12, 2012

CLF Ships’ New Tech = Better Service


By Wayne Cox, MSC

Thirty ships in Military Sealift Command’s Combat Logistics Force are the logistics backbone of the Navy’s global fleet. Operating 24/7, CLF ships keep hundreds of U.S. Navy ships supplied and able to remain at sea on task for extended periods of time. Last year alone, CLF ships delivered more than 1.3 million square feet of cargo and more than 583 million gallons of fuel to Navy ships at sea.

For MSC’s CLF ships, getting the right supplies to the right ships in a timely manner is a daunting task. That task, however, has become easier due to a new globally integrated cargo load management system currently being implemented by MSC’s CLF ships and six subordinate commands worldwide.

The old cargo load management system used outdated technology that was virtually unaltered since the 1960s. The new system offers unprecedented benefits over the previous one, including a comprehensive, real-time, centralized look at the total inventory of supplies on board CLF ships. Access to the big picture, in turn, has enabled CLF ships to more efficiently respond to the demands of fleet customers in need of food, fuel, spare parts and other vital supplies.

Ship inventories worldwide can now be monitored from six centralized locations ashore. Latest state-of-the-art computer technology enables both seagoing personnel and a shore-based management team to see accurate, up-to-date inventories. As a result, supply-laden CLF ships can be better directed to provide the necessary underway replenishment to Navy combatant ships at sea.

Shoreside support personnel dedicated to monitoring CLF ship inventories have already been trained at MSC Far East in Singapore and MSC Central in Bahrain. By mid-March, 19 CLF ships are scheduled to have completed the software upgrades that allow shoreside personnel to see total inventory information. All changes, ashore and afloat, are slated for completion by October 2012.

The old cargo load management system was designed to support independently operating CLF ships, which all functioned as individual stock points to replenish Navy combatant ships at sea. Whenever specific supplies were needed aboard a ship, the crew could only contact the crew aboard a specifically assigned CLF ship to see if the ship was stocked with the desired cargo. For the Navy’s seagoing forces, this piecemeal look at supply inventories – ship by ship – made it challenging and time consuming to locate and obtain urgently needed materials. A change was needed.

Accurate data is the first step to ensure high-quality viewing and efficient management of all CLF inventories from ashore. Using a software upgrade, called the Shipboard Load Management Module, all inventory data carried by the ships is transmitted via satellite link to a shore-based Global Stock Control Office, or GSCO, located at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., as well as a CLF logistics officer-led team based at each of MSC’s five area commands worldwide.

Ashore in Norfolk, the GSCO performs two primary functions; processing all CLF ship resupply requests and keeping track of all CLF ship inventories, including managing the financial transactions between ships.

At the area commands, the CLO team serves as a centralized point of contact to coordinate requests from all combatant ships in that area of operations. Based on the centralized inventory information available via satellite, the CLO team can accurately determine which CLF ships should resupply which Navy combatant ships.

The new cargo load management system went live in August 2011 when MSC dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart, MSC Far East and the GSCO in Norfolk participated in a major Pacific Fleet exercise supporting the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group, successfully conducting 30 underway replenishments that transferred 2,400 pallets.

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