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May 14, 2015
Contact: Shelley Dawicki


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The 314-foot U.S. Army vessel Major General Robert Smalls breaks out of the fog in Woods Hole Harbor May 10 headed for the NOAA Fisheries dock. Photo Credit: Shelley Dawicki, NEFSC/NOAA

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Unusual Ship, Cargo Visit Woods Hole Laboratory Dock on May 10

It wasn’t a typical ship or cargo arriving at the Woods Hole Laboratory dock on Sunday, May 10. Out of the dense fog at roughly 4 p.m. appeared the 314-foot LSV-8, a U.S. Army vessel from Baltimore. The logistics support vessels (LSV) are the largest powered watercraft in the U.S. Army and are designed to carry vehicles and cargo and offload them via bow and stern ramps in as little as four feet of water, meaning they can "beach" themselves on shore to drop off cargo. The ship can hold up to 24 M-1 Abrams main battle tanks and considerable roll-on-roll-off and containerized cargo.

For this trip, the vessel transported nine vehicles and other equipment for the New Jersey National Guard, headed for training exercises at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne. LSV-8 is officially named USAV Major General Robert Smalls. The vessel and a sister ship, the Robert T. Kuroda, are 42 feet (13 meters) longer than other ships in the class to allow for a false bow or "visor" that protects the vessel’s front ramp and makes it easier to move through rough water. They have 10,500 square feet of deck space, a 60-foot beam, and a draft of six feet (light) to 12 feet (loaded). The vessels have a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 12 knots, and can make 10,000 gallons of water a day. There is a crew of 6 officers and 23 enlisted personnel.

"We were approached by the Army Reserve a few months ago about using the dock for this purpose," said Jack Moakley, chief of the NEFSC’s Operations, Management and Information Division and a captain in the NOAA Corps, now retired. "They checked out the dock facilities and it met their needs. Once they arrived, the operation went very smoothly. It was something different for the lab, and one of the largest vessels to dock here in recent memory."

LSV-8 is the first Army vessel named for an African-American. It was commissioned in 2007 and is assigned to the Army Reserve’s 203rd Transportation Detachment based in Baltimore, Maryland. The ship was built at VTT Halter Marine in Moss Point, Miss.

According to a U.S. Army news release, Robert Smalls was a 23-year-old slave when he commandeered a Confederate transport steamer loaded with armaments and used the vessel to carry his wife, children and 12 other slaves to freedom during the Civil War. Hailed as a hero by Union leaders, Robert Smalls went on to become the first African-American to captain a vessel in U.S. service and later served as a major general in the South Carolina militia, a state legislator, a five-term member of the U.S. Congress, and U.S. Collector of Customs in Beaufort, S.C.

Within an hour, the vessel had docked, unloaded its cargo, and left to return to Baltimore. A small crowd gathered along the waterfront to see the unusual vessel maneuver in Great Harbor and depart.

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