The Military Sealift Command-chartered high speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) left service for the US Navy over the summer. (MC2 Adam Henderson / US Navy)
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WASHINGTON — One of the most publicized ships to serve the US Navy over the past decade quietly slipped out of service last summer, ending an almost frenetic career that saw the ship call at dozens of ports all over the world.
The high speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) wrapped up its duties with Military Sealift Command in late May when it completed a three-month Southern Partnership Station cruise to central America. The ship’s civilian crew then took the wave-piercing catamaran across the Pacific, arriving in Hobart, Tasmania, off Australia’s southeast coast on July 30. The next day, the ship was returned to its owners, Sealift Inc., and began refitting at the Incat facility in Hobart to prepare her for civilian charter work.
Built as Incat’s Hull 061, the Swift was first chartered in July 2003 to operate as an interim mine warfare command and support ship for the US Navy, supporting what were called “transformational” mine warfare modular mission payload initiatives. From Australia to the US, the ship was sent to the northern Persian Gulf combat zone by early October 2003, and was exercising with South African forces by mid-November. Returning to the US, the ship operated off Norway and in the North Sea in April 2004, then was at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for the biannual Rim of the Pacific exercise.
From the mid-Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, to Singapore and Thailand, to Sicily and Spain, then southern California, the Swift traversed the oceans as few ships have, crisscrossing from time zones to demonstrate the utility of a relatively small, high-speed transport. As the mine demonstration mission wore down, the Swift was often used in partnership missions, carrying out extended cruises to Africa, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The ship’s initial five-year charter was renewed in 2008. Eventually, personnel from all US military services were carried on the Swift, which was normally crewed by civilian contract mariners along with a Navy detachment.
Having proven the high speed vessel concept, the Swift now is being replaced by new joint high speed vessels built for the Navy in Alabama. The first JHSV, Spearhead, is undergoing an overhaul at Charleston, S.C., and is expected to begin its first deployment in January.
Meanwhile, the former Swift, once again Hull 061, is being advertised by Incat as available for charter.