San Marco (L 9893) is the second ship of the San Giorgio-class landing platform dock.
The Italian Navy’s strength is being greatly enhanced. Most recently, Trieste, a new landing helicopter dock for the Italian Navy, is undergoing sea trials. In addition, the Italian Navy currently operates three 8,000-ton amphibious assault ships, the San Giorgio class: San Giorgio, San Marco and San Giusto. They specialize in amphibious operations, replacing the Grado-class ships that were decommissioned in the late 1980s.
San Marco was laid down on 26 March 1985 and launched on 10 October 1987 by Fincantieri at Riva Trigoso. She was commissioned on 14 May 1988.
Compared to today’s modern Landing Platform Dock, San Marco and her sisters is quite small. Her full load displacement is 8,000 tons – the length is 133m (436 ft) and the beam is 20.5m (67 ft). Compared to the Grado class – which were purely amphibious ships, the San Giorgio class represented a new concept, utilizing the support of their own helicopters. This platform provide roll-on / roll-off landing capability for land embarkation; air lift through the use off high capacity aircraft such as Chinook-type helicopters; and transportation by sea to shore, using the ship’s own systems and landing ships for landing on unprepared shores.
The San Giorgio class has a continuous deck and side island – looks like a Garibaldi or Tarawa type carrier, but smaller. The main flight deck, which runs almost the length of the ship, has four helicopter landing spots. The slender straight bow was blended into the hull by a protuberance line for the hydrodynamic characteristics. The superstructures form a single mass, located in the center of the hull, on starboard. It also houses a control station, a single funnel, and a small mast to support radars and telecom antennas.
Three davits on the main deck are provided for the deployment of three LCVP or MTP landing craft and a patrol boat. The hull has a full layout of space for accommodation and living for the crew. The garage, consisting of a continuous deck, extends from the stern to the bow. The garage supports both wheeled and tracked vehicles, through the use of ramps and rear hatch. In the central part of the flight deck is a lift, allowing the transfer of vehicles between deck and garage.
There is a two-hook travelling crane, each hook rated to carry 40t, providing the capability of autonomous loading and unloading operations completely independently of harbour facilities.
The propulsion system, including two diesel engines Grandi Motori Trieste, delivered 8,400 hp each. Each engine is capable of driving two axes, with constant pitch propellers. There are also four diesel engine generators Grandi Motori Trieste, with 1,030 horsepower each.
San Marco can reach a top speed of 21 knots, a range of up to 7,500 nautical miles if maintained at 16 knots.
San Marco is operated by a crew of 150 sailors. A typical load would include a battalion of 350-400 personnel, plus 30-36 tracked armored personnel carriers or 30 medium tanks. A total of two or three LCVPs can be carried. The stern floodable dock can accommodate three LCM landing craft, each capable of transporting 30t of material.
From 1999 to 2000, San Marco was modernized, in which the 76mm MMI cannon and two port side davits for LCVP’s were removed. These modifications allowed the size of the flight deck to extend from the bow to the stern, where four helicopters could be operated at the same time. San Marco is capable of operating 3 Sea King SH-3D helicopters or 5 Agusta Bell AB-212 helicopters. The ship is also armed with two Oerlikon 20mm machine guns for close defence.
The ships of this class are also exceptionally versatile and can be used for disaster assistance operations. Desalination equipment, medical facilities, and helicopter support are available aboard. Their logistical flexibility makes them one of the best rescue vehicles to support civil operations.