The strategic and operational effectiveness of sealift

This plan (David Pugliese, "Forces to lease supply ship", Daily News 18 July 2007, p.12) to charter a cargo ship for a period of a year or more was described in a presentation at the Maritime Security Conference by Lieutenant-Colonel Martha Stouffer from Canadian Operational Support Command, which was entitled "Strategic Heavy Lift Transportation Vessel Chartering." Her presentation materials are available on the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies' website at this URL.

The move to charter a ship makes eminently good sense, both from budgetary and strategic perspectives. Leadmark (p. 158), the navy's strategic guide to the year 2020, makes note of the cost savings that shipment by sea represents:

"A comparison of cost in 1998 indicated that the approximate cost of movement of a ton of cargo by sea was $0.04 per ton/mile. For the same cargo to go by military aircraft, the costs would have been: CC130 [Hercules] - $3.08; CC150 [Airbus] - $0.64; and by C17 Globemaster - $0.41 per ton/mile."

The quoted source was the Directorate of Defence Analysis, Strategic Lift Analysis, Strategic Lift Analysis and the Strategic Lift Concept Study briefing, 3 June 1998.

Unfortunately, this vital information is hidden in a footnote, making it difficult to notice and retrieve. Such critical information should be highlighted and pushed to the forefront of these discussions. The current practice of flying most freight directly from Canada to Afghanistan is hideously expensive. A Daily News article states that the CF is looking for a place to establish an "intermediate support base" where freight can be offloaded from the ship and then moved forward by either land or air routes. Anything to cut down on the number of miles flown by transport aircraft will cut down on cost and increase the availability of aircraft for movement of time-critical cargoes. It is noteworthy that it has taken this long to discover one of the fundamental truths of expeditionary operations: "Professionals study logistics; amateurs study tactics."