Archive for : May, 2018

Navy’s Giant Sea Base in Middle East

According to The Drive, the U.S. Navy’s new giant sea base the USS Lewis B. Puller is now on duty in the Middle East and the service is already experimenting with what the ship might be able to do. Currently, this includes acting a launch pad for boarding parties and special operators and serving as a platform for counter-mine operations. The ship might even eventually be able to take on the role of floating medical facility, which could be particularly important if one or both of the service’s existing hospital ships end up in mothballs.

Puller first arrived in the region in August 2017, at which point the U.S. Fifth Fleet took control of the ship from the Navy’s hybrid military-civilian Military Sealift Command (MSC). Officially termed an Expeditionary Sea Base or ESB, the vessel took over for the USS Ponce, an aging amphibious ship the service converted to serve as an interim float staging platform. In September 2017, Ponce returned to Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia for decommissioning and eventual scrapping.

“This ship is a blank canvas,” U.S. Navy Captain Joseph Femino said in a March 2018 interview with USNI News. “Whoever wants to come assess what they want, develop what they want, we’ll work to try and get that.”

There’s a lot of space to work with since the ship is a whopping 764-feet long, 164-feet wide, and displaces a massive 78,000 tons. Derived from the Alaska-class oil tanker, it features a large open flight deck situated with four operating spots, two for take off and landing and two parking, that can support V-22 Osprey tiltrotors, various types of helicopters including the MH-53 Sea Dragon, and small tactical and helicopter-like drones, such as the ScanEagle and MQ-8 Fire Scout respectively.

Below that there is a large open space that can accommodate small watercraft, cargo, containerized mission spaces, and more. Underneath, in the hull, there are massive ballast tanks that, at present, are just empty space.

Middle East tensions

According to Offshore Technology, Oil prices have crossed $70 a barrel for the third day due to tensions in the Middle East over concerns of supply disruptions. Brent crude futures rose by 28 cents to reach $70.40 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures grew 19 cents at $65.74 a barrel, reported Reuters.

Oil prices grew by more than 7 percent this month and by 5.3 percent in the first three months of the year. Brent prices have risen due to geopolitics and expectations of OPEC and its allies controlling output. For the second time this year, prices crossed $70 a year since late 2014. Analysts, however, are cautious.

PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The recent rally in oil prices might have taken some by surprise as the underlying fundamental picture does not justify Brent being close to $70/bbl. This view is based on the simple fact that non-OPEC oil supply growth will trump the increase in global oil demand this year.”

“The recent rally in oil prices might have taken some by surprise as the underlying fundamental picture does not justify Brent being close to $70/bbl.”

“The price strength of the last couple of weeks is down to two factors. The first one is a stable OPEC output level which leads to impressive compliance (with an oil supply-cutting deal). The second one is supply-side geopolitical developments in Venezuela, Libya, and Iran, the cutest of which is Iran.”

With the US threatening to withdraw from the nuclear agreement that Iran signed with six world powers in 2015, there are chances of sanctions imposed, which could obstruct oil exports. Since the start of 2017, OPEC and its allies have curtailed production to push prices. This agreement will end in 2018 but OPEC member Saudi Arabia has supported the deal to be extended into 2019, where to buy liquor.