One of the largest ro-ro ships and military equipment in the port of Gdynia

Another shipment of US Army equipment is underway at the Port of Gdynia. On the night of the fourth to fifth of March 2023, the transport ship Leroy A. Mendonca. It is representative of one of the types of the largest ro-ro ships in the world.

The loading of equipment of the 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Group of the 1st Cavalry Division from the outgoing rotation of US troops stationed in Poland as part of the Atlantic Resolve mission is taking place in Gdynia.



Some of this equipment was taken by the ro-ro ship Endurance, currently en route to Beaumont in the US, which has been docked at the quay of the Baltic Container Terminal (BCT) in Gdynia for some 147 hours since 26 February. His place has been taken by Leroy A. Mendonca, who is likely to load the remainder of the equipment that did not fit on board the Endurance.

Leroy A. Mendonca belonged to a group of ships referred to in the US Army by the code name T-AKR. This series is made up of four ship types. These are two each of the ‘Gordon’ (Gordon Class) and ‘Shughart’ types with displacements of approximately 56,200 to 56,300 tonnes – these are converted from civilian vessels, and seven purpose-built vessels of the ‘Bob Hope’ type for Military Sealift Command with a displacement of just over 63,000 tonnes according to some, and approximately 62,000 tonnes according to other sources, and finally eight ‘Watson’ type vessels with a displacement of almost 64,000 tonnes.

The ship just visiting Gdynia, Leroy A. Mendonca is the former USNS Mendonca (T-AKR 303) belonging to the series started by the logistics ship Bob Hope.

They are the fourth largest cargo ro-ro vessels in the world in terms of gross tonnage, or gross tonnage, (not counting parts of the PC/TC and PCC car carriers, but even the largest vessels of this type have a much smaller carrying capacity than the T-AKR vessels).

For a long time, Military Sealift Command had 19 ships of this type, described as Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships (LMSR). In turn, the T-AKR code applied to them stands for ‘Fast Logistics Ship’ in US Department of Defense nomenclature.

Some of the T-AKR vessels are no longer serving in the Military Sealift Command, although they may still perform MSC-designated tasks.

In December 2022, the Mendonca unit was renamed Leroy A. Mendonca and transferred from Military Sealift Command under MarAd – the Maritime Administration of the United States government, something like the Ministry of Shipping or the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, although more accurately MarAd is part of the United States Department of Transportation or the United States Department of Transportation.

At the same time, in December 2022, the civilian contract technical management – now of the ship, not the vessel – changed and is now exercised by Ocean Duchess Inc, part of the Ocean Shipholdings Inc group. However, according to some sources, Mendonca has ceased service and has been struck off the ship’s register, the Naval Vessel Register, as early as the end of September 2022.
Thus, the operator and shipowner managing the ‘commercial’ (disposition) of the vessel are now the US Government MarAd.

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