Inadequate Monitoring of U.S. Merchant Tanker Fleet Hampers Mobilization Planning

LCD-79-215: Published: Jun 29, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1979.

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The Military Sealift Command (MSC) has a fleet which is adequate during peacetime operations, but the fleet will need to be augmented with additional commercial assets during a war. This anticipated reliance on commercial tanker ships dictates that the Department of Defense (DOD) constantly monitor the status, composition, and characteristics of the fleet. The primary source within DOD for this information is the Shipping Information System (SIS), a computerized data bank. Information on more than 30,000 ships is included in SIS and the data files contain over 100 ship descriptors which provide information about the characteristics of individual ships.

DOD needs to know, on a continuing basis, the number of available tankers capable of transporting the refined petroleum products that military forces will need. It was found, however, that the ever-changing nature of the merchant marine has created some problems in maintaining an accurate tanker inventory, even with the automated information system. Queries of two other shipping information systems also produced conflicting data concerning the total inventory. For example, by consolidating the three inventories it was determined that the total universe of tankers was 326. However, no single listing contained more than 281 tankers or less than 277. Analysis revealed that 90 tankers, or about 27 percent of the consolidated total, were not mutually recognized by all sources. Some of the reasons for the inconsistencies and discrepancies were name changes, type of trade, change in status, no record of vessel, and type of ship. It was also found that available automated information systems, including SIS, do not possess enough detailed information on the characteristics of tanker ships to enable planners to forecast which ships might be of use in transporting refined petroleum products.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should regularly make efforts similar to those taken recently to reconcile tanker inventories in order to keep the SIS as accurate and current as possible. It is also recommended that prompt action be taken to include relevant data in SIS to permit more effective analysis of those tankers most suitable for carrying refined petroleum products. The data should include characteristics describing a tanker's capability in the areas of product separation, product multiplicity, discharge rates, and coated fuel cargo tanks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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