2 US TANKERS WIN SEALIFT BIDS TO CARRY PETROLEUM

2 US TANKERS WIN SEALIFT BIDS TO CARRY PETROLEUM

The Military Sealift Command has awarded three long-term charter contracts totaling $128.8 million to two U.S.-flag tanker operators to transport petroleum to U.S. military bases abroad.

The charters to Sun Transport Inc. and OMI Courier Transport Inc. will replace nine Sealift Command tankers retired last year after a Senate subcommittee uncovered a series of safety and environmental problems on the ships.Under the new contracts, the Sealift Command will charter the New York Sun, built in 1980 by Sun Transport, and OMI's Patriot and Courier, built in 1976 and 1977. The charters will be for 17 months, with two 17-month options.

The two OMI ships were already under charter to the Sealift Command under a six-month contract signed in April. The Sun ship will replace the Duchess, a 37,000-ton tanker owned by Bankers Trust Co. and operated by Ocean Shipholdings Inc. It was also under a short-term contract.

None of the newly chartered ships is double-hulled, but the Sealift Command called them as "high quality, reliable tankers" and said Sun Transport and OMI have "established, proactive programs to protect the environment." The agency said it has developed special selection criteria that gives preference to companies with strong safety records.

A tanker industry official said the New York Sun is "far superior" to the Duchess and therefore costs more. "It looks like they (the Sealift Command) have recognized quality," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The New York Sun carries 261,670 barrels of petroleum. The OMI ships carry 245,513 barrels each. The three ships can replace the nine tankers previously chartered by the Sealift Command, because U.S. force levels and military fuel transport requirements have been reduced substantially in recent years.

OMI's crews are represented by the American Maritime Officers and the Seafarers International Union. Sun's crews do not have formal union representation. The Duchess is also crewed by the AMO and SIU.