By Edward Baxter| Military Sealift Command Far East Public Affairs
CAM RANH BAY, Vietnam– Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd left Cam Ranh Bay in Southern Vietnam, Aug. 23, marking the end of a historic visit -the first by a U.S. Navy ship to the port in more than three decades.
Byrd spent seven days at Cam Ranh Shipyard for routine maintenance and repairs that included underwater hull cleaning, polishing of the ship’s propeller, repairing shipboard piping and overhaul of the salt water cooling system that keeps the ship’s engines cool and runs the air conditioning.
Cam Ranh Bay is 180 miles North of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon. From 1965 to 1973, Cam Ranh Bay was one of the largest in-country U.S. military facilities during the Vietnam War.
MSC Ship Support Unit Singapore routinely contracts shipyards throughout Southeast Asia to conduct maintenance and repairs on the command’s Combat Logistics Force ships. The Navy saves both time and money by using multiple commercial shipyards throughout the region, reducing transit times to more distant shipyards and thereby also reducing the amount of time these ships are off-mission.
“Working at Cam Ranh Bay provides the U.S. Navy with an additional option to repair our ships efficiently and in a cost effective manner,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Little, officer in charge of MSC SSU Singapore.
In addition, these ship visits foster positive relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.
“The U.S. Navy’s return to a port symbolic of the Vietnam conflict proves that our two countries have come a long way in building relations over recent years,” said Byrd’s civil service master Capt. Lee Apsley. The U.S. normalized diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995.
Cam Ranh Bay is a deep-water and sheltered harbor, which can easily accommodate larger naval vessels with deep drafts. Byrd measures more than 680 feet in length and displaces more than 41,000 tons.
“Maintenance was conducted efficiently and in a timely manner,” said MSC SSU Singapore port engineer Anh Ho, who was on site to oversee the repairs.
Byrd’s repairs in Vietnam are the third such repairs on MSC vessels in that country over the last two years: rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) completed repairs at Saigon Shipmarin Shipyard near Ho Chi Minh City in September 2009. Cam Ranh Shipyard performed maintenance on Byrd in March 2010, but the work was performed at Van Phong Bay, located about 80 miles North of Cam Ranh Bay.
Work was completed Aug. 22 and Byrd got underway, Aug. 23, out of the harbor to return to normal duties as one of U.S. 7th Fleet’s primary supply vessels operating in the Western Pacific.
Byrd is one of MSC’s 11 dry cargo/ammunition ships that operate worldwide delivering ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products to U.S. Navy ships at sea.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, U.S. merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.