MSC Chartered Ship MV Ocean Giant Completes ODF Cargo Operations

Credit: precious-madubuike-JC9S-unsplash

Military Sealift Command chartered ship MV Ocean Giant has completed its cargo offload at McMurdo Station, Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the Joint Task Force Support for Antarctica mission to the NSF-managed U.S. Antarctic Program, says an article published on Dvidshub.

Electronics equipment

Ocean Giant delivered over six thousand tons of cargo consisting of 443 pieces of cargo, which included containers filled with mechanical parts, vehicles, construction materials, office supplies and electronics equipment and vehicles.

The supplies will provide nearly 80 percent of the items needed for survival over the severe arctic winter over period when the station is cutoff from the rest of the world.

Addition to traditional cargo

In addition to traditional cargo, Ocean Giant delivered a 65-ton Marine Causeway System that was offloaded, assembled and used as a pier, replacing the traditional ice-pier used for cargo operations, that was damaged and unusable this year.

Offloaded and assembled

According to Capt. John D. Hawkins, Ocean Giant’s civilian master, when the ship arrived at McMurdo Station, they temporarily moored so the causeway system could be offloaded and assembled. The ship’s crew used the ship’s heavy lift cranes to pick up the components (some weighing as much as 90 tons) and set them onto the water.

With the assistance of two “warping tugs” (also brought with the vessel), the pieces were assembled into the causeway. This structure became the final mooring pier, where the cargo was offloaded onto the trucks driven to and from ashore. This process took several days, before the ship was able to move from the temporary mooring to alongside the causeway where cargo operations occur.

Ice-core samples

Once the cargo offload began, Ocean Giant’s crew worked around the clock with Seabees from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE (NCHB -1) and NCHB 5, for nearly two weeks.

Upon completion of their cargo offload, Ocean Giant was loaded containers of retrograde as well as ice-core samples to for scientific study.

Most challenging environment

After over 50 years of operations in Antarctica, MSC’s chartered ship crews have experience bitter cold conditions, ice-packs that must be traversed, multi-agency operations, thawing, damaged ice-piers, long work days in the most challenging environment on Earth.

For Hawkins and his crew this was no different from that of their predecessors. What was of special note was the realization of how isolated they were at the bottom of the world.

Non-existent depending

“The ODF missions differ from most in that you travel to a part of the world where outside support is minimal or non-existent depending on what may be needed. That raises the stakes on any potential problem that may be encountered, because the resources to address them are only what you have on hand and the abilities of those on site,” he explained.

“While this is often the issue whenever a vessel is at sea, it is never more true than when you are in Antarctica. McMurdo Station lives every day this way as well; hence we are impressed, and can appreciate, their self-reliant culture.”

Incredibly challenging

It is not just the physical distance of being in Antarctica that makes people feel isolated from the rest of the world, it is the lack of communication through technology. Something as simple as sending an email, which most of us do several times a day, can suddenly become something incredibly challenging from a ship at McMurdo Station.

In addition, without the internet, it becomes difficult to get news and to keep up with what is going on in the rest of the word.

Minimize the impact

“One of the difficult things for a crew these days is the lack of access to information and connection to the Internet for their everyday communications,” said Hawkins.

“We as a culture have become hugely reliant on it, and even vessels at sea these days usually have some level of Internet availability. Crews on ODF missions must adjust to the way they conduct their personal business and communications. We discuss this up front prior to the voyage to minimize the impact, but you really don’t understand what this means, until you experience it.”

Participates in ODF appreciates

Despite the challenges of the mission, Hawkins recognizes the positive aspects of the ODF mission, noting that crewmembers who make the trip take away a new sense of accomplishment and pride.

“I think every crew member that participates in ODF appreciates how rare an opportunity they get to experience,” he said. “They will see and do things that most of the world will only hear about, or see the pictures. Believe me, you hear it said so often that a picture just doesn’t do it justice.”

Relatively untouched

For Hawkins, the mission to Antarctica has a more special meaning for him. He sees the mission as a way to experience a piece of the world that is relatively untouched; a place that remains the same year after year. Something in which he finds comfort.

Influx of people

“While you are in Antarctica, you think every day how much you’d love to share what you are experiencing with those you know and care for. Another part of you feels a bit selfish in wishing that this part of the world remained exactly as it is, hidden away, without the influx of people and what we tend to bring,” Hawkins explained.

“Even in this most remote of regions, we see the influence of what we (the rest of us in this world) are doing, and often not in a good way. So, while I feel honored to have had this experience, I sort of want to close the door quietly behind me and slip away unnoticed.”

Future support missions

Ocean Giant will return to Port Hueneme, Calif., where its mission began in late December, where it will offload its cargo and prepare for future support missions.

The ship will be followed by MV Ocean Gladiator at McMurdo Station.

Joint service

Operation Deep Freeze is a joint service, on-going Defense Support to Civilian Authorities activity in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program. Mission support consists of active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard as well as Department of Defense civilians and attached non-DOD civilians. ODF operates from two primary locations situated at Christchurch, New Zealand and McMurdo Station, Antarctica. An MSC-chartered cargo ship and tanker have made the challenging voyage to Antarctica every year since the station and its resupply missions were established in 1955.

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Source: Dvidshub


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