Auxiliary ships are naval vessels used by the United States Armed Forces to aid primary fleet vessels in their operations. Of all the vessels serving in the United States Armed Forces, auxiliary vessels are very important, because the primary fleet needs them to effectively carry out their missions. This type of naval vessel offers support to naval operations, such as combat, in many ways. Though auxiliary ships do not directly have a combat role, they often are equipped with combat capacity, especially for self-defense.
Types of Auxiliary Vessels
The size and purpose of each auxiliary vessel depends on the navy’s needs and operations. For instance, coastal navies generally have smaller auxiliary vessels, while blue water navies generally have larger ships that can endure oceanic conditions.
Barges, lighters, derricks, and tugboats are all harbor support vessels. They usually stay in the harbor and help move equipment and other ships around the port. Also, they dredge channels, service harbored ships, and help maintain jetties and buoys. Floating dry docks and small equipment vessels are among the auxiliary vessels that help repair other ships. These also aid primary combat vessels so that they may return more quickly to service, thereby increasing their survival chances if damaged during combat. Replenishing auxiliary vessels restock fleet ships while at sea with supplies such as food, fuel, and ammunition.
Oilers and tenders are two common types of replenishment vessels. A wide range of auxiliary ships are also tasked with survey and research. These vessels provide the Navy with information about areas in which they will operate, thereby familiarizing them with the conditions they will exhibit. Finally, merchant ships converted and commissioned to naval service help transport fuel supplies or soldiers.
As with other naval vessels built prior to the 1970s, the construction of auxiliary vessels included asbestos materials, often used as insulation around pipes or joints as well as anywhere that posed a fire risk. Although asbestos did serve to prevent many instances of a tragic fire at sea, this prevention came at the cost of the respiratory health of many veterans who served on these ships. When these ships were built and also whenever they sustained physical damage or were repaired, the asbestos material was disturbed and fibers were released, endangering crew aboard or even near the vessel.