By Travis Weger, Military Sealift Command
KOPER, Slovenia -- Military Sealift Command (MSC) Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Yuma (T-EPF 8) arrived for a port call in Koper, Slovenia, May 7. This is the second port visit by an expeditionary fast transport in Koper, the first was from USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in Jan. 2020, highlighting the strategic importance of the Port of Koper for Allied military mobility.
Yuma is in Koper to refuel, resupply and offload U.S. Army Africa cargo, consisting of vehicles and equipment, from exercise African Lion 20. The crew of the Yuma will not leave the vessel except to conduct ship-related activities on the pier. The cargo will be offloaded by local Slovenian stevedores, and all interaction with the ship’s crew will be in accordance with required health protocols, to include social distancing and protective equipment. Slovenian stevedores supporting this mission will also be screened for COVID-19 prior to starting their work.
In an effort to limit movement and protect the health and safety of the crew and host-country in a COVID-19 environment, MSC ships worldwide have suspended all liberty and leave for all civilian mariners. Additionally, ships are on self-quarantine between ports, staying out to sea for 14 days between port calls.
To control the risk of exposure on MSC ships, all personnel accessing the ship are screened for COVID-19 using a screening questionnaire. Personnel who are identified as being at risk for infection are not permitted on board. Every effort is made to preserve a virus-free environment by practicing social distancing, wearing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), washing hands and following the technical guidance for the cleaning and sanitization of shipboard spaces, machinery and cargo.
“The crew onboard Yuma has been underway for two weeks and we are looking forward to the offload in Koper, even though it’s a short stop,” said Capt. David Gommo, Master of USNS Yuma. “We regret being able to see Slovenia only from the ship, and hope to return to Koper for a future visit when conditions permit us to disembark.”
EPF class ships are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ship is capable of operating in austere ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank.
Yuma is redeploying the cargo to its point-of-origin from exercise African Lion 20, a large-scale U.S.-led multinational exercise in Africa. This is the second consecutive year that MSC’s expeditionary fast transport ships have supported the exercise.
MSC operates approximately 125 naval auxiliary civilian-crewed ships, which replenish U.S. Navy ships, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners around the world.