Sea Transportation: New Class of Military Tankers

July 14, 2007: The U.S. Department of Defense is replacing four T-5 tankers (each with a capacity of about 10 million gallons) with two new tankers, each carrying about 14 million gallons. The two new ships are being built in the United States, as mandated by law, but are using a ship design provided by a South Korean firm. Over the last two decades, South Korea has become the dominant builder of tankers on the planet. The T-5 tankers, built in the 1980s, are reaching the next of their useful lives in the next few years. The new tankers will be delivered in 2010 and 2011, and will be used, in addition to civilian tankers, to deliver petroleum products to U.S. armed forces worldwide. Like the T-5 class tankers, the new ones will be leased, not owned, by the U.S. government. This has been the police for over half a century, and the last government owned tanker was retired in 1985, about the time the current T-5s were built, and chartered. In 2003, the U.S. government bought four the T-5s (the other was sold to another commercial firm). The current T-5s are based on a design created in the 1950s, but much updated since then. The T-5, in turn, was developed from the T-2 design of World War II.

This small fleet of tankers is augmented by foreign owned tankers in time of war. During the Vietnam war, there were as many as a hundred tankers supplying fuel for all the services overseas, but particularly in Vietnam. The T-2s, and the new class of tankers, are built to move through icy waters, so that they can supply bases in Greenland and Antarctica, with fuel. The new ships will each cost about $4 million a month to charter. Each new tanker costs about $112 million to build, and the charter fee includes maintenance and crew expenses.

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