Axis shipping in the Mediterranean

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Bronsky
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Axis shipping in the Mediterranean

Post by Bronsky » 03 Jan 2006 12:57

[Split from 'German Merchant Shipping']

Looks like my post didn't make it, so this is a repost
Jon G. wrote:Here is a very comprehensive list of early war German merchantmen losses, taken from the brilliant German website I linked to earlier. The overall number of interned ships appears to be relatively modest, compared to eg. the number of ships lost to collisions or mines.
Not sure how you can claim that. The majority of ships in that list is "lost" from Allied action, i.e. sunk or captured at sea by the British & French navies. Those in port at the time of the declaration of war are interned, those at sea are intercepted. Italy was the same: not all the ships "lost" on the declaration of war were interned in foreign ports, some were intercepted as well.

My point anyway was in answer to the claim that some of the ships lost to their owner at the declaration of war did not always end up being lost to their side, e.g. German merchant ships ending up being of use to the Italian and Japanese navies. As far as I can tell, the bulk of the ships lost to Germany, and particularly Italy - a country with longer sealanes and less forewarning of war - were permanently lost to the Axis cause.
Jon G. wrote:The vast majority of ships outside German waters no doubt ended up as lost anyway as the war went on, but they could and did provide valuable service to the German war effort before being sunk - an example being the not insignificant amount of German merchant ships in the Mediterranean.
There were 56 German merchant ships in the Mediterranean as of 10 June 1940 for 203,512 tons. The total rose to 67 by 31.12.40, then 64 by 31.12.41, 82 by 31.12.42, and 73 by 08.09.43. "German" includes a hefty dose of captures (Greek, French, Yugoslav ships) though I suppose that the June 1940 figure is fairly accurate as opportunities for the Germans to capture Polish merchant ships in the Mediterranean would have been few :-)

By that time, my hand count from the above-mentioned site (which I had downloaded years ago :-) ) shows 90 merchant ships lost for 444,996 tons to the Allied blockade, skipping most ships under 1,000 tons and ships lost from other causes than Allied navies or internment (i.e. some ships scuttled and I didn't normally count them). Neither did I count ships lost during the Norway operation, though I did count ships sold to the USA (not to Mexico) and the batch of ships captured by the Dutch when Holland was invaded in May (the ships had taken refuge in Dutch ports where they could hardly "provide valuable service to the German war effort )".

What this shows is twice as much German tonnage being lost to the Allies, either interned in Allied ports or captured at sea, than were put to use in the Med.
Jon G. wrote:I recall reading that no less than 700,000 tons worth of Vichy merchant ships were put to use by the Germans following the invasion of the demilitarized part of France. To give an idea of proportion, 700,000 tons of merchant ships constituted ~½ the size of the Italian merchant navy at the time, or approximately what Dönitz' U-Boats would sink in a month when they did best.

By the end of the Tunisian campaign, only about 100,000 tons of the commandeered Vichy merchant fleet remained - the rest had been sunk by Allied air and sea forces.
To be more precise, 700,000 tons is the total amount shipping that remained in Vichy-controled France when the Germans occupied it in November 1942, of which Vichy "agreed" to "voluntarily contribute to the defense of the Reich" an amount of 645,000 tons, keeping 50,000 for its own use.

At the time, the Italian merchant fleet had some 1,000,000 tons left of which only some 400,000 could be sailed to North Africa (the rest being undergoing repairs, or coastal stuff used for Albania & Greece) so the Vichy fleet - some 80,000 tons of which consisted of light coastal shipping, not counting the proportion of inoperable ships from the rest of the total - instantly doubled the Axis trans-Mediterranean lift capacity.

Of the above mentioned 400,000 tons of Italian shipping, 325,000 had been sunk by the time Tunis surrendered.

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Post by Jon G. » 11 Jan 2006 12:40

Bronsky wrote:...My point anyway was in answer to the claim that some of the ships lost to their owner at the declaration of war did not always end up being lost to their side, e.g. German merchant ships ending up being of use to the Italian and Japanese navies. As far as I can tell, the bulk of the ships lost to Germany, and particularly Italy - a country with longer sealanes and less forewarning of war - were permanently lost to the Axis cause.
Well, OK, but then your point is not in direct opposition to mine, which was that it is incorrect to classify merchantmen not in German ports at the outbreak of war as lost at that time. The vast majority of them were lost eventually anyway, but their loss to the German merchant navy should be counted from the time they were sunk/interned/taken as prizes etc. not from the outbreak of war.
...What this shows is twice as much German tonnage being lost to the Allies, either interned in Allied ports or captured at sea, than were put to use in the Med.
With captures factored in, the amount of German shipping tonnage in the Mediterranean rises from 'not insignificant' to 'substantial', but on the other hand probably not enough to fully compensate for Italian losses at the outbreak of war - and at any rate compensation would have been gradual until early 1943.
To be more precise, 700,000 tons is the total amount shipping that remained in Vichy-controled France when the Germans occupied it in November 1942, of which Vichy "agreed" to "voluntarily contribute to the defense of the Reich" an amount of 645,000 tons, keeping 50,000 for its own use.

At the time, the Italian merchant fleet had some 1,000,000 tons left of which only some 400,000 could be sailed to North Africa (the rest being undergoing repairs, or coastal stuff used for Albania & Greece) so the Vichy fleet - some 80,000 tons of which consisted of light coastal shipping, not counting the proportion of inoperable ships from the rest of the total - instantly doubled the Axis trans-Mediterranean lift capacity.

Of the above mentioned 400,000 tons of Italian shipping, 325,000 had been sunk by the time Tunis surrendered.
Yes, the figure I originally stated as ships being 'put to use' is too high - only about 100,000 tons of captured Vichy merchant shipping was useful for sailing on Tunisian ports. It appears though that precisely light, fast ships were in high demand for the Tunisian convoys, some of them maybe under the 1000 ton mark you set for your hand count :) This ship type was also favoured for the convoy route to Libya, which is why the Italians only had about 200,000 tons of ships useful for the Tunisian routes available by February 1943 - i.e. the Vichy captures added a hefty 50% to available Italian shipping, but capacity wasn't quite doubled; I don't know how large a proportion of German ships minus Vichy captures were of any use on the Tunisian route.

I've found two figures for Italian/Axis shipping in the Mediterranean:

One figure gives 748,578 tons of ships over 500 tons at the time of surrender (with 50% undergoing repairs); the other figure is given as 1,362,682 tons of Axis ships, or about twice the tonnage of Vichy shipping captured by the Germans.

The discrepancy is in part because the higher figure factors in German ships (incl. captures; overall 582,302 tons but I am not sure if losses prior to 1943 are factored in) and 300,000 tons 'or so' from salvage and ships built after the outbreak of war.

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Post by Bronsky » 11 Jan 2006 16:37

Jon G. wrote:Well, OK, but then your point is not in direct opposition to mine
I admit to not drafting my statements so that they should always directly contradict yours :-)
Jon G. wrote:, which was that it is incorrect to classify merchantmen not in German ports at the outbreak of war as lost at that time. The vast majority of them were lost eventually anyway, but their loss to the German merchant navy should be counted from the time they were sunk/interned/taken as prizes etc. not from the outbreak of war.
Don't see why. From the declaration of war, these ships could be classifed as "missing" from the German point of view, most of them were never of any use to the German war effort. From that point of view, whether they were actually captured on September 3rd or in, say, November makes no practical difference at the German end. It did make a difference in terms of delayed availability for the Allied side, but that is a different issue.

Most of the "missing" ships were known to be permanent losses. A handful of ships reached Germany despite the Allied blockade, and I remember e.g. 3 or so Italian ships running from Rhodes to Italy in early June, just after the Italian declaration of war. But most of them were lost, and known to be lost by their national authorities.
Jon G. wrote:With captures factored in, the amount of German shipping tonnage in the Mediterranean rises from 'not insignificant' to 'substantial', but on the other hand probably not enough to fully compensate for Italian losses at the outbreak of war - and at any rate compensation would have been gradual until early 1943.
You can drop the "probably": in June 1940 the Italians lost 212 ships for 1,216,637 GRT. German shipping available in the Mediterranean at the time was 54 ships for 188,344 GRT. Counting later "German" additions (i.e. mostly ships captured by the Germans) and captures until 1943 adds a little under 400,000 GRT.

Not sure what you mean about compensation being gradual. Additions to the fleet (captured Yugoslav & Greek ships) were more or less progressive, but not the incorporation of the German shipping. Also, the Italians never really lacked shipping until relatively late, mid-42 more or less.
Jon G. wrote:Yes, the figure I originally stated as ships being 'put to use' is too high - only about 100,000 tons of captured Vichy merchant shipping was useful for sailing on Tunisian ports. It appears though that precisely light, fast ships were in high demand for the Tunisian convoys, some of them maybe under the 1000 ton mark you set for your hand count :)
There could be a confusion here: the roughly 1,000 GRT mark that I had set was for my handcount of German ships seized or interned by the Allies following the declaration of war. I'd be interested in the source for the 100,000 tons figure of French shipping usable to the Italians, though, if you can spare the time.
Jon G. wrote:I don't know how large a proportion of German ships minus Vichy captures were of any use on the Tunisian route.
When I wrote "Italian" I meant "Axis", because the naval resupply effort was under Italian command. Both countries ran their own separate airlifts.
Jon G. wrote:I've found two figures for Italian/Axis shipping in the Mediterranean:

One figure gives 748,578 tons of ships over 500 tons at the time of surrender (with 50% undergoing repairs); the other figure is given as 1,362,682 tons of Axis ships, or about twice the tonnage of Vichy shipping captured by the Germans.

The discrepancy is in part because the higher figure factors in German ships (incl. captures; overall 582,302 tons but I am not sure if losses prior to 1943 are factored in) and 300,000 tons 'or so' from salvage and ships built after the outbreak of war.
The first figure looks like Bagradin one (from my Excell spreadsheet, looks like I've been a bit sloppy with attributions, and I don't feel like hunting for the book) though it says that as of 9 September there were 748,578 ships of over 500 tons available, plus 410,239 tons undergoing repairs i.e. 35% of the total, not 50%.

The second figure is from Van Creveld and is as of 1/1/43, not at the time of surrender. Losses in 1943 amounted to 712 ships and 803,099 tons. So no real discrepancy.

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Post by Davide Pastore » 11 Jan 2006 21:00

From "Navi Mercantili Perdute", USSMM 1946-1197, on 9 September 1943 there were 324 Italian merchant ships in service, for 1,247,092 t GRT

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Post by Bronsky » 11 Jan 2006 21:37

Hm, I had a figure just under a million tons from either "Dati Statistici" or "La Difesa..." Couldn't you Italians at least agree among yourselves ? :-)

Duly adding that one to my little spreadsheet, see how I can make it fit...

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Post by Jon G. » 12 Jan 2006 08:24

Hi Bronsky,

I'll skip the lost vs. missing argument for German merchant vessels at the outbreak of war. Only I'll maintain that a merchantman should only count as lost from the moment it is captured or sunk, not from being cut off from German ports at the outbreak of war.

The German merchantmen in the Mediterranean turned out to be highly useful for the German/Axis war effort for example. German merchantmen were available in sufficient numbers to allow for the majority merchantmen used for Operation Sonnenblume to be of German origin.
Bronsky wrote:
Jon G. wrote:With captures factored in, the amount of German shipping tonnage in the Mediterranean rises from 'not insignificant' to 'substantial', but on the other hand probably not enough to fully compensate for Italian losses at the outbreak of war - and at any rate compensation would have been gradual until early 1943.
You can drop the "probably": in June 1940 the Italians lost 212 ships for 1,216,637 GRT. German shipping available in the Mediterranean at the time was 54 ships for 188,344 GRT. Counting later "German" additions (i.e. mostly ships captured by the Germans) and captures until 1943 adds a little under 400,000 GRT.
OK, but do the 212 lost Italian ships include merchantment sailing in eg. the Red Sea? If there were any, they should still count as Italian assets, even if they were only of very limited value. But generally speaking it is much easier to enforce a blockade of Italy at Suez and Gibraltar than it is to enforce a blockade against Germany. The number of Italian ships outside the Mediterranean returning to Italy prior to Sept. 9 1943 was presumably 0, and that makes the 'lost/missing' vs. 'not in Italian ports at the outbreak of war' rule more applicable to Italy than to Germany.
Not sure what you mean about compensation being gradual. Additions to the fleet (captured Yugoslav & Greek ships) were more or less progressive, but not the incorporation of the German shipping. Also, the Italians never really lacked shipping until relatively late, mid-42 more or less.
OK, but my point was not to establish if there was an Italian shortage of shipping at the outbreak of war, only to measure up net tonnage lost (or 'not in the Mediterranean' cf. my comment above) at the outbreak of war vs. net tonnage gained from German seizures of Greek, Yugoslav and Vichy ships. Any tonnage lost to the Italians at the outbreak of war was only compensated for as the Germans conquered other countries with ships in the Mediterranean - i.e. gradually by year.
There could be a confusion here: the roughly 1,000 GRT mark that I had set was for my handcount of German ships seized or interned by the Allies following the declaration of war. I'd be interested in the source for the 100,000 tons figure of French shipping usable to the Italians, though, if you can spare the time.
No problem. My figures are from Eduard Mark: Aerial Interdiction. He in turn refers correspondence between OKW and von Arnim, dated March 31st 1943: ...in his appreciation of mid-March 1943, Hitler referred to hopes current at the end of 1942 that it would be possible to supply the forces in Africa with the Italian ships on hand and those expected from France [...]He acknowledged that the expectations had been ill-founded.

Mark goes on and refers from Brig. gen Seibt's assessment entitled 'Railroad, Sea and Air Transportation Situation for the Supply of Africa Through Italy (January-May 1943)' to state that the Germans obtained 450,000 tons of shipping from the French in January 1943. Of this amount, less than 100,000 tons was suitable for the supply of Africa. An urgent program to construct small boats began in January 1943 but appears to have accomplished little.
I've found two figures for Italian/Axis shipping in the Mediterranean:

One figure gives 748,578 tons of ships over 500 tons at the time of surrender (with 50% undergoing repairs); the other figure is given as 1,362,682 tons of Axis ships, or about twice the tonnage of Vichy shipping captured by the Germans.

The discrepancy is in part because the higher figure factors in German ships (incl. captures; overall 582,302 tons but I am not sure if losses prior to 1943 are factored in) and 300,000 tons 'or so' from salvage and ships built after the outbreak of war.
The first figure looks like Bagradin one (from my Excell spreadsheet, looks like I've been a bit sloppy with attributions, and I don't feel like hunting for the book) though it says that as of 9 September there were 748,578 ships of over 500 tons available, plus 410,239 tons undergoing repairs i.e. 35% of the total, not 50%.

The second figure is from Van Creveld and is as of 1/1/43, not at the time of surrender. Losses in 1943 amounted to 712 ships and 803,099 tons. So no real discrepancy.
Actually both figures (which I also found in Mark) can be lead back to Bragadin, only van Creveld extrapolates by adding German captures, new constructs and repairs. According to Mark, 53% of Italian shipping was in repair or awaiting repair in Dec. 1942, a number that probably wasn't lower by Sept. 1943.

Mark, quoting from Ruge, also empasizes that Italian shipping was needed elsewhere in the Mediterranean - particularly in Sicily, which needed 200,000 tons of coal each month - coal that among other things was necessary for operating the Tunisian convoy routes.

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Post by Bronsky » 12 Jan 2006 13:47

Regarding other merchant traffic, the Italians had to supply their own economy, Sicily, Sardinia, as well as the Balkans. But they could use smaller and/or older vessels for that task as the distances were shorter and the route usually less dangerous.
Last edited by Bronsky on 13 Dec 2006 15:26, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Davide Pastore » 12 Jan 2006 14:32

According to the source of mine previously cited, the 212 ships (1,216,637t GRT) were "outside Mediterranean" on 10 June 1940 - so this number includes ships in AOI.

Other numbers:

Mercant fleet strenght on 10 June 1940: 786 ships over 500t GRT (3,318,129t GRT) [plus 200 ships of 100-500t GRT]

Increase 10 June 1940-9 September 1943: 204 ships (818,619t GRT)

Losses (same dates) 460 ships (1,700,096t GRT)

786 - 212 + 204 - 460 = 318, but the same book lists at 324 the ships extant in 1943. This might either be an error, or 6 ships (27,077t GRT) which in some way re-entered an Italian port (not necessarily through Gibraltar; maybe also to Bordeaux).

However same source lists the name of many more ships returning to France (Pietro Orsoelo, Cortellazzo, Himalaya, Fusijama, Clizia, Capo Lena, Capo Alga, Burano, Todaro, Atlanta, Eugenio C., Ida, Frisco, Monbaldo, XXIV Maggio, Butterfly, Africana: at least 17 ships) so there is apparently a mistake somewhere.

On May 1945 only 95 ships (336,810t GRT) remained.

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Post by Bronsky » 12 Jan 2006 21:18

Davide Pastore wrote:Mercant fleet strenght on 10 June 1940: 786 ships over 500t GRT (3,318,129t GRT) [plus 200 ships of 100-500t GRT]
Ok, that's the same figure as the one used by Bagradin. From Dati Statistici (either that or "La Difesa di convogli...") I noted 747 ships for 3,163,944 GRT.
Davide Pastore wrote:Increase 10 June 1940-9 September 1943: 204 ships (818,619t GRT)
From Bagradin, additions were:
Italian ships built or recovered 84 ships 416,742 tons (Italian merchant ships built is put at 60 ships 305,733 tons)
Foreign ships captured/purchased 126 ships 428,954 tons
German flagged ships added 124 ships 378,784 tons

Looks close enough regarding tonnage...
Davide Pastore wrote:Losses (same dates) 460 ships (1,700,096t GRT)
Bagradin says 565 ships > 500t for 2,018,616 GRT, and 759 ships <500t for 87,905 GRT, though his "total, including German ships lost" is the sum of the preceding two.

My other Italian source (see above) gives a total of 2,272,707 GRT from 1,278 ships (! I must have made a typing error somewhere) but that includes German ships. On the other hand, we can deduct the figures for German ships which are known from another source.

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Post by Davide Pastore » 13 Jan 2006 10:29

Bronsky wrote:My other Italian source (see above) gives a total of 2,272,707 GRT from 1,278 ships (! I must have made a typing error somewhere)
If you refer to the losses, this is possible if you include any ship regardless of her size. Navi Mercantili Perdute includes a 532 pages long verbose description of sinkings, with an average of 5 ships per page (first 10 pages, 49 ships) or 2,500 ships total. However, it includes vessels as the fishing shooner Alaska, 17 (seventeen) tons.

Also it includes ships as Mirella, hitting a mine on 1 March 1940 (before entry into war) after leaving Newcastle with a coal load.

Upon further reflection:
786 - 212 + 204 - 460 = 318, but the same book lists at 324 the ships extant in 1943. This might either be an error, or 6 ships (27,077t GRT) which in some way re-entered an Italian port (not necessarily through Gibraltar; maybe also to Bordeaux).

However same source lists the name of many more ships returning to France (Pietro Orsoelo, Cortellazzo, Himalaya, Fusijama, Clizia, Capo Lena, Capo Alga, Burano, Todaro, Atlanta, Eugenio C., Ida, Frisco, Monbaldo, XXIV Maggio, Butterfly, Africana: at least 17 ships) so there is apparently a mistake somewhere.
Possible solution: of the 17 ships reaching Bordeaux, 11 were lost before 1943, and only 6 remained afloat at armistice.

Checking:

Pietro Orsoelo (Mn 6,344t) afloat 1943 - a very successfull blockade runner, Kobe (41)-Bordeaux-Kobe-Bordeaux(43)
Cortellazzo (Mn 5,292t) sunk 1942 en route to Kobe
Himalaya (Mn 6,240t) afloat 1943
Fusijama (mn 6,244t) afloat 1943
Clizia (Cst 3,698t) afloat 1943
Capo Lena (Pf 4,820t) afloat 1943
Capo Alga (Pf 4,723t) afloat 1943
Burano (Cst 4,450t) afloat 1943
Todaro (Cst 5,162t) afloat 1943
Atlanta (Pf 4,404t) afloat 1943
Eugenio C. (Pf 4,078t) afloat 1943
Ida (Pf 6,131t) afloat 1943
Frisco (Cst 4,610t) afloat 1943
Monbaldo (Pf 6,214t) afloat 1943
XXIV Maggio (Pf 5,372t) afloat 1943
Butterfly (Pf 5,127t) sunk 1943 by RN en route from Bordeaux to Le Havre
Africana (Pf 5,869t) afloat 1943

15 ships afloat, wrong guess. There is definitely a mistake somewhere.

Davide

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Post by Jon G. » 23 Jan 2006 15:49

Bronsky wrote:...Thanks for the source. Well, you have Bagradin's assessment for the end of the war...

Regarding other merchant traffic, the Italians had to supply their own economy, Sicily, Sardinia, as well as the Balkans. But they could use smaller and/or older vessels for that task as the distances were shorter and the route usually less dangerous.
To add some more numbers to the discussion, the above source mentions that Sicily needed 200,000 tons of coal a month. The poorly developed railroads of southern Italy meant that 4/5 of this quantity had to be shipped there from Naples - only 1/5 could be ferried across the Straits of Messina. As a very brief aside, I wonder how that reflects on the German evacuation of Sicily.

Naples to either Messina or Palermo is about 2/3 of the distance from Naples to Bizerte or Tunis - and furthermore, the final 1/3 of the sealane from Naples to French North Africa was protected by extensive Italian minefields, which reduced the risk of attack by Allied sea units. So the sea route to Sicily, while shorter, was still a drain on Axis shipping resources.

By the time the Axis occupied Tunisia, the convoy routes to French North Africa were largely outside the range of Allied aircraft - but as the Allies advanced through both Algeria/Tunisia and Libya and their advanced airfields leap-frogged with them, the Axis convoy routes came within range of more Allied planes from early 1943 on. That meant that the Axis had to rely increasingly on smaller, faster ships, which they had already lost many of on the route to Tripolis in the preceeding two years. By March 1943 25% losses were expected on the North African convoy routes.

Also, convoys had to be escorted - according to Mark, 'at one apparently representative point during the Tunisian campaign, only eleven out of Italy's thirty-three destroyers were operational'.

In February 1943 von Arnim estimated that HG Afrika needed about 69,000 tons of supplies per month, a figure that includes civilian consumption. Von Arnim however added that his needs would rise to 140,000 tons/month if he were to undertake major offensive operations. Relative to Sicily's needs that's not a lot of supplies, yet the Comando Supremo estimated at the same time that they could only spare enough shipping to send 70,000 to 82,000 tons a month to Tunisia.

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Post by Jon G. » 05 May 2006 15:43

As a rather belated a propos, the book by Eduard Marks that I mentioned is available here as a free, legal and BIG pdf download. Well worth the time and the paper.

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Germany's transport ships in the North African campaign

Post by PattonRules » 12 May 2006 22:20

I have never been able to find much information about how they transported tanks and other heavy equipment. What sort of ships were they on and how were they unloaded? Did they have landing craft?

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Post by Christoph Awender » 13 May 2006 08:00

Hello

They used all kind of small, medium and large cargo ships. The equipment was unloaded from the "belly" of the ships with the normal cargo cranes of the ships.

\Christoph
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Post by PattonRules » 14 May 2006 20:33

Where did they land and what ports did they use?

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