Sea Transportation: Improved Navy Lighterage System


June 20,2008: For the first time since World War II, the U.S. Navy has a new lighterage system. "Lighters" are boats (barges, actually) used to carry cargo from ship to shore. This is necessary in situations where there is no port available, or not one with deep enough water for the large military cargo ships to dock and unload. The new "Improved Navy Lighterage System" consists of several different steel barge types (each about 80x24 feet and weighing 75-124 tons) that can be fitted together, sometimes to form a jetty for cargo to be carried to land. But more often, the lighters, using their own water jet propulsion systems, carry the cargo ashore. The water jet propulsion system, and shape of the lighters, makes them more suitable for loading, and moving, cargo (usually vehicles or cargo containers) from ship to beach or a jetty comprised of sections of the new lighters.

Cargo ships, especially the Maritime Prepositioning Ships, carry these lighters, like any other cargo, or hung from the sides of the military transport ships. Each lighter can carry 150-270 tons of cargo. The new lighters use more automation, bow ramps (so vehicles can drive off onto a beach). There are several different types of lighters, some motorized. Some 300 of the new lighters are being purchased. The first one entered service in 2005.


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