How Can The US Navy Store Fuel In The Pacific?

Last week I reported the US Navy To Shutdown World’s Largest Underground Bunker Fuel Tanks and the story went viral getting almost a quarter-million reads.

My good friend Sal Mercogliano responded with a series of videos on his youtube channel What’s going on in shipping.

The most recent episode discusses five options that Sal thinks the Department of Defense should examine with the decision to close the 250 million gallon fuel farm at Red Hill in Hawaii due to environmental contamination of the aquifers.

  1. chartering of an American supertanker
  2. a reduced operating status agreement with major US tanker firms
  3. keeping outgoing, Henry J. Kaiser-class oilers
  4. modifying existing Lewis B Puller-class Expeditionary Support Bases so they can carry fuel in their ballast tanks
    5 Montford Point-class Expeditionary Support Docks, and a new build-and-charter program.

Would love to hear your thoughts on these 5 ideas. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical, especially on 1 and 4.

Here are my questions about each (but feel free to ask your own)

  1. has a VLCC ever been converted to a product tanker before? If so, what were the lessons learned?
  2. ok but where will these new ROS ships be placed in the pacific?
  3. aren’t many of these single-hulled?
  4. well first you would need to inert the ballast tanks. Then what happens if you need to dump ballast in an emergency? What happens if an enemy shell hits the tank?
  5. I’m all for building new tankers… but do our shipyards have enough room? Where are we going to get the money to build enough ships to replace Red Hill’s 250 million gallons (about 6 million barrels) of bunker and jet fuel?

If you knew the physical condition of the outgoing AOs you would strike that off your list. Those ships are well past their life expectancy. Metal fatigue is the issue. Tanks, pipes all going. If those were commercial ships they would have been shut down years ago. All but the last three are single hull.

Navy wanted a platform for amphibs. MONFORD POINTs need to submerge so fueling the ballast tanks might not work. Better to build Alaska-class tankers: would hold more fuel; would not have the excess ‘Navy stuff’ complicating a floating target… I mean floating fuel depot.
Giant floating fuel depots were great ideas when we were at war with landlocked, cave dwelling opponents. Against anyone else it’s just stupid.

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Can repairs not be made to the current tanks?

How are various tankers a substitute for big tanks on an island? It seems to be the easiest and best idea is to do what thousands of fuel storage operations have already done, get rid the leaky old stuff and install new tanks and pipes.

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They aren’t but the DOD, in their infinite wisdom, decided to let the problem get so out of hand at 1000 houses had to be evacuated and outrage spread across the island.

So the local community - especially the parents of kids who drank water poisoned with bunker oil - are not going to let them repair or rebuild anytime soon.

If you guys want to start another thread about how incompetent l US Navy leadership is, please be my guest! But let’s keep this thread to discussing Sal’s ideas.


As most of us who participate on this forum don’t often think in gallons, 250 million gallons is roughly 595,000 bbls.


That is 94600 Cbm, or 91762 m.t. of HFO at 0.97 Sp.g. and temp. 15C for those of us that use the metric system. (Which is >95% of the world’s population)

The lead ship is almost forty years old. The hulls are wasted. Most are single hull, meaning just one plate of metal separates the fuel from the sea. Holes into the tanks are not uncommon. Steel wasting is a major contributor to shipyard delay. At this point several AOs are just placeholding until their replacements come online. Many major repairs are being made knowing it needs to last only a few more years. Other repairs are just canceled because it’s not worth the cost for return.

Those AOs were great. Now they need to be retired or it’s courting disaster.

Or just a single Alaska class tanker. Why not buy two, one for general purpose distillate and another for clean distillate like jet fuel?

Are there any US-flagged VLCC? (250-320K DWT)

I know there used to be, (I have inspected and evaluated some for suitability as FPSO conversion) but are there any left?

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That puts all your eggs in two baskets. Risky.

If one ship goes out of service for any reason then you’ve lost that entire product. Risky. It might be better to have more than two, of smaller size, with both products in each ship. That way the loss of any single ship won’t be crippling.

They should be single purpose - holding fuel - and not some jackfuck multi-mission with high operating expense, high manpower and many pieces that can break. By that I mean no UNREP rigs, no helo hanger, no ammo mags, no mass berthing/troop transport, no hospital, no RORO or anything else the good idea fairy comes up with in his drunken stupor.


That would only be about one oil product tanker…
However >>>
250 [million US-gallons] / 264.17 [gallons per m³] = 946,000 m³

I meant the tank farm. I see Kaiser class oilers all the time, I know they are worn slam out.


Oh well, what is a Zero among friends??
In another thread (Can’t remember which) I was told that the difference between 1.4 Bn. and 3.0 Bn. (Chinese) didn’t matter. (“So what”)

That was the whole point … they would be nothing more than floating storage with pumps, connected to whatever kind of distribution system already exists.

The only way a tank can go out of service is if it has a leak. If for some reason they have a dead ship they can use portable pumps to move product.

Of course the navy will find a way to screw it up, that is what they do best but if they turn the operation over to civilian mariners the chances of them leaking, sinking, burning, or ramming someone are greatly reduced.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Metrification in the U.S

You’re looking at 3-4 VLCC’s to replace the tank farm. One is a lot of ship, nevermind 3 or 4. Where would you put them? Anchorage south of Oahu is deep, basically on the beach, and exposed. Never been inside Pearl, but inside Honolulu is tight for 140k dwt tanker in ballast.

Shore side storage is vulnerable in war time and so are VLCCs. It makes more sense to expand the T-AO fleet.

Still planning the last war?