On July 20, 2017 the Canadian Navy, in partnership with Federal Fleet Services, celebrated the launch of the M/V Asterix, a 26,000 tonne Resolve-class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) ship at the Davie shipyard in Levis, Quebec. The Asterix is the largest vessel in the RCN and comes equipped with the latest technology for naval replenishment-at-sea and enhanced humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

The unique design of her hull includes a protected, environment-controlled area for the storage of thirty eight intermodal containers or “seacans” for containerised stores, supplies and ammunition. Twenty of these containers are refrigerated to store perishable items and are serviced by cargo elevators for packing / unpacking while at sea. With onboard cranes for loading / unloading this system streamlines replenishment of entire containers while in port and this concept is sure to be imitated in future naval and commercial ship designs.

Once built, the Navy soon realized that these intermodal containers had limitations for their full utilization while at sea. Pallets couldn’t be “safely” assembled higher than three feet without fear of toppling over in rough seas and access to the pallets within the intermodal containers was laborious and cumbersome especially for pallets towards the back of the containers. In response to these drawbacks the Navy put out a new proposal in their Canadian Defense Acquisition Guide which recognizes the need for a “modular” system that will offer containerized capabilities. Standardized interfaces are to be adopted in line with current Mission Modularity STANAG development projects to leverage capabilities across NATO and the modules of the CCS offer an excellent solution.

The Cargo Carousel System is being developed specifically for underway replenishment-at-sea operations. This new system replaces wooden pallets with rugged, cubic, reusable and recyclable aluminum “modules” to safely contain and protect its contents. Each module of the CCS is suspended from the carousel to better absorb shock and to insure safe movement in the roughest seas. The Carousel itself is housed in a framework that can fit into any sized container. The cubic design of the modules allows full height space utilization of the intermodal container without crushing products underneath and it’s over/under carousel function allows any pallet to be brought forward for easy access to any of the modules within the container and without the need for loading docks.

Empty or spent modules of the system are used in the reverse chain for postal services, recycling, waste removal, equipment repairs or anything that needs to return to port. For naval replenishment operations this “circular” type of supply and return chain extends to all ships in the fleet making this system invaluable for its quick replenishment capabilities at sea and at port. When transferring between ships, simply swap out a spent module and replace it with a new, pre-stocked module at the same time and with the same system and use that spent empty module for the return trip. The same holds true for the intermodal container itself once back in port, simply swap out a new, pre-stocked container with one that is returning to dramatically improve efficiency and recycling. 

To further efficiency, a wireless SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) communication system that we perfected for the upstream Oil & Gas industry is already being developed for the CCS that combines RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags with GPS and other sensors to track & trace every item within the CCS anywhere in the world in real-time. This makes army applications just as efficient because loading docks are not required and the modules of the CCS can be custom built to carry ammunition, small arms, uniforms, equipment and food. An entire company can be fully equipped with pre-stocked items for quick deployment and replenishment.

There is no better system of storage and retrieval for naval or commercial maritime applications.