U.S. Navy Ships Heavy Armor to Persian Gulf: Shipping Sources
Tehran Times, 5 September 2002
LONDON -- The U.S. Navy has booked a large ship to carry tanks and heavy armor to the Persian Gulf this month as the Pentagon presses home a case for ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, shipping sources said on Wednesday.
The U.S. military sealift command chartered a U.S. flagged general cargo ship to sail from the southeast U.S. coast to an unspecified Middle Eastern port in the Persian Gulf for discharge in late September, they said.
This is the third shipment of arms and military hardware in a month using commercial shipping, which military analysts say shows the U.S. Navy has probably exhausted the capacity of its own fleet and resorted to the open market.
The formal tender document, seen by Reuters, shows the ship will carry 67 separate pieces of "track general cargo, containerized cargo and rolling stock" measuring 56,000 square feet (5,202 sq metres), slightly larger than a soccer pitch.
Military experts say the dimensions and weight of the pieces specified in the document match almost exactly those of the standard U.S. Abrams battle tank.
"This ship can easily carry tanks," said a shipping industry source familiar with the U.S. military tendering process.
Military analysts say that the movement of heavy armor from the U.S. southeast coast to the Persian Gulf mirrors similar movements ahead of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and is a key signal that the superpower is building up fire power in the region ahead of a possible military strike.
In mid-August Reuters reported that the navy booked a large ship to carry helicopters, ammunition and assorted "rolling stock" to the Red Sea.
The story was initially denied by the U.S. Navy, but a military sealift command spokeswoman later retracted the denial when confronted with documentary evidence.
The Pentagon has said the shipments of military hardware in August were to support exercises in Jordan that have been planned for two years.
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