I thought I would include Haiti, not necessarily because it was significant for a military operation (although the military were involved) but because it was pretty recent and had a combination of similar challenges to the others.
There was no enemy forces (although criminality was an issue) but it required a high volume and time critical response that eventually made use of a wide range of military and civilian solutions, it is this that makes it an interesting case study.
Although many other nations contributed to the relief effort including Canada, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Italy, Israel, South Korea, UN and the United Kingdom, the ship to shore logistics heavy lifting was done by US forces or US contractors.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere but after decades of poor governance it was starting to pull itself out from that dubious title.
Haiti is in the USA’s back yard and it had a number of interests in the country; was a major source of mass migration, had many areas of weak governance that were a haven for drugs transhipment activities and former President Bill Clinton had only recently been appointed UN Special Envoy!
US forces had also intervened militarily a number of times, most recently in 2004 in Operation Restore/Uphold Democracy.
The USA could not stand idly by when on the 12th of January 2010 at 21:53:10 UTC a magnitude 7 earthquake struck 16 miles West of Port au Prince.
230,000 people died, 197,000 were injured and over 1.2 million were displaced.
60% of the government infrastructure was destroyed and over 100,000 destroyed with many more damaged beyond repair.
Port au Prince was the main port for Haiti, handling an average of 230 TEU’s per day in 2009 between the North and South Piers, about 95% of the nations total. The other ports of Saint marc, Petit Goave, Miragoane, Les Cayes and Jacmel were much less capable, especially for container handling.
Not in great shape before, the port facility was particularly hard hit.
Gantry cranes were in the water and the quays either submerged or significantly weakened
The North Pier (with the gantry crane) was used for container traffic and the South pier, for break bulk cargo.
Almost immediately the US military and Coastguard were forming response plans, many other nations would also play a significant role.
The immediate response would largely be ’by air’ although USN ships were ordered to set sail or divert within hours.
In less than 24 hours the damaged but still useable L’Ouverture Toussaint International Airport was hosting units from the 1st Special Operations Wing based in Florida who concentrated on restoring traffic management for the inevitable onslaught on aircraft.
Air drops would also be used to supplement the air delivered supplies and personnel
Commercial flight operations were restarted on the 19th of February.
From the 14th of January to the 19th of February the airport had managed to offload over 15,000 tonnes of freight and evacuate nearly 15,000 people (amongst other things) over 6,000 sorties.
Despite the obvious utility of air operations for rapid response and time sensitive materials it was obvious that overland from the Dominican Republic and more directly over the beach or through the existing ports would have to be the main means by which the significant volume of relief supplies would be delivered.
Time sensitive by air, volume by sea.
The operation to get relief supplies into Haiti would make use of existing port facilities and ‘over the beach’ and it is this that makes it so interesting as a case study.
First to arrive in Port au Prince was the Dutch support ship HNLMS Pelikann
The US Navy and Coastguard involvement, summarised and reproduced in full from the Analysis of the USN Response;
The USS Higgins was returning from a CENTCOM deployment and was in the Atlantic Ocean. She was immediately diverted to Haiti and she arrived on 14 January as the first U.S. Navy ship on-scene.
The USS Carl Vinson had fortuitously gotten underway on the morning of the earthquake, which gave her a great head-start. Vinson was able to off-load the Carrier Air Wing and on-load helicopters (19 total) as she passed Mayport, Florida on 13 January. These helicopters were able to arrive or be on their way within 12 hours of notification. This rapid maneuver allowed Vinson to arrive off of Port-au-Prince by the morning of 15 January.
USS Bataan was activated as the Ready Duty Amphibious Readiness Group, to include USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall. These ships got underway from Virginia on 14 January to North Carolina in order to embark 22 MEU elements.
These elements had recently returned from deployment, and the Air Combat Element (ACE) had recently decomposited. Nevertheless, an ACE was created, though new, and embarked with the ARG along with the rest of 22 MEU.
USS Gunston Hall was set to deploy for Africa Partnership Station, which involves humanitarian operations and military training events off of Africa.
Gunston Hall was diverted initially from this mission and traveled with the BataanARG/MEU, arriving with those ships in Haiti on 18 January
USNS Grasp was diverted from Belize to assist with salvage operations and to serve as a diving platform for divers (salvage and construction), first arriving on 18 January after loading personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) the day before. Assets from Naval Oceanographic Office performed surveys of wharfs, piers, and approaches (using USNS Henson and a Fleet Survey Team).
A Joint Logistics Hub (CTF-48) was stood-up at GTMO on 18 January with the idea of providing a large pipeline close to the Joint Operating Area (JOA). This hub went into overdrive on 21 January, when Commander, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) took command.
A variety of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units deployed.
Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) provided salvage and ship husbandry skills. Underwater Construction Team One (UCT-1) provided assets to dive on and reconstruct the South Pier at the Main Terminal in Port-au-Prince.
Security detachments from the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force (MESF) embarked in Comfort to provide security, and a larger security force embarked in Fort McHenry. A Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) embarked in Bataan (and a second team was part of APS in Gunston Hall). Various NAVELSG assets went to GTMO as well as on USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (for JLOTS). Naval Mobile
Construction Battalion Seven (as well as Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 that arrived on Williams) provided construction capability. And personnel from Combat Camera (at the Embassy) provided various visual recording capabilities.
USNS Comfort departed Baltimore on 16 January, much faster than the normal 5-day activation time for hospital ships. Much debate ensued over the staffing of the ship, but this was worked out during transit, allowing the Comfort to arrive in Haiti on 20 January and receive additional augments once on station. Other medical assets also deployed to the other ships, including Fleet Surgical Teams and a Casualty Receiving Triage Ship team (to augment medical staffs on ships).
The Lummus arrived on 22 January with the first of Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) assets for helping to flow supplies into the broken seaport. Other ships would arrive over the next week with additional capability (SS Cape May, SS Cornhusker State, and the USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams).
The Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (with 24 MEU embarked) was due to deploy for CENTCOM and missions involving Operation Enduring Freedom. The SECDEF agreed with a delay of this deployment, and the NAS ARG/MEU sailed for Haiti and arrived on 23 January.
Thus by 24 January, most of the U.S. Navy assets had arrived, with work starting as soon as they arrived in Haiti. The assets focused on the delivery of supplies: through GTMO and through the ships offshore of Haiti, and also using JLOTS and restoring capability at the main port of Haiti. They also delivered supplies that other organizations needed transporting. Assets provided medical care and transportation of medical patients and supplies. Assets provided security and also aided in the distribution of large quantities of food at official World Food Program Distribution Points.
Throughout all of this activity, JTF-Haiti tried to coordinate with all of the groups on the ground as everybody struggled to understand the true depth of the need. The “demand signal” was quite elusive. No end states were given. Meanwhile, assets began to report fewer and fewer earthquake-related issues and more general problems that a poor nation faces. For example, Gunston Hall noted that fewer than 10% of patients seen at the Killick clinic on 27 January were earthquake-related. Comfort made a similar observation the same day.
Almost three weeks after the earthquake, on 1 February, Vinson and Bunker Hilldeparted, having transferred most of the helicopters to Bataan and to GTMO.This point marked the slow transition of U.S. Navy assets out of theater.As U.S. Navy assets initially departed, many discussions asked whether or not other assets would arrive as relief. For example, when discussing the departure of the Bataan ARG/MEU, initial efforts focused on identifying another ARG, or perhaps an SPMAGTF on an amphibious ship. By the time Bataan departed on 24 March, one of the last ships to depart, discussions had shifted to having an amphibious ship that was prepared to deploy, if needed.
Of the ships, the USNS Grasp stayed the longest, departing on 29 March after embarked Army divers and UCT-1 completed the south pier construction. NMCB-7 remained even longer (through the end of April), as it transitioned to other construction projects, and JTF-Haiti looked to transition toward “normal” engagement operations.
The commander of JTF-Haiti turned command over on 18 April to a lower ranking officer, and then JTF-Haiti was finally stood-down on 1 June, 2010.
In contrast with operations at the airport, where US forces had absolute control, the Joint Task Force – Port Opening (JTF-PO) made sure that the local port authority had the final say and the following key activities were established.
- Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS)
- Port Operations
- Port Infrastructure Assessment and Repair
The most up to date survey of the area was 30 years old and given the likely underwater debris as a result of the earthquake damage a new survey was the first priority. Not only would it be a possibility that uncharted wreckage could damage ships but earthquakes can change the charted depths, large aid vessels running aground would the last thing needed.
CHARTS is an interesting system that uses LIDAR, cameras and a CASI-1500 hyper-spectral sensor on Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop aircraft.
Despite this build-up of the hi-tec the first survey team into the port was the US Army 544th Engineer Dive Team equipped with a portable sidescan sonar and single beam echo sounder, hosted aboard the USS Grasp, sister ship of the USNS Grapple I wrote about in the previous post. The USNS Grasp was on exercise in Belize and was immediately re-tasked and arrived on the morning of the 18th.
Between them, by the 30th had completed an accurate survey including using what is without a doubt a very cool bit of survey kit
Entry routes into the port and offloading beaches and safe anchorages for the USNS Comfort were priorities.
The USNS Grasp, after arriving on the 18th of January, hosted the Army diver team (as above), removed floating containers, repositioned wrecks and supported the other vessels in the area with general maintenance tasks.
The Grasp also had a decompression chamber that was used to treat a Haitian diver with decompression sickness
Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS)
JLOTS is the US terminology for a Navy and Army combined capability to load and unload ships without the use of port facilities
JLOTS has a very wide range of equipment but key to operations in Haiti were the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) and a number of landing craft or lighters. It arrived at Haiti between the 22nd and 31st of January on the USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus, USNS PFC Dewayne T Williams, SS Cape May and SS Cornhusker State.
How did it all fit together?
The Cape May bought the INLS components to location and offloaded them, these comprised 3 INLS Causeway Ferries, 3 INLS Warping Tugs, 1 INLS (Roll On Roll Off Discharge Facility (RRDF) and 3 NL Causeway Ferries, 2 Side Loadable Warping Tugs
1 LSV-1, 5 LCU 2000′s, 1 LCM 8 and 2 MFP Utility Boats completed the JLOTS equipment
Once offloaded the INLS equipment would be used to unload the Lummus and Williams and transfer the containers, stores and vehicles to shore.
The Cornhusker State was a dedicated crane ship that would stand off about 3 miles from shore and transfer containers from one ship to the lighterage.
Supplementing the JLOTS equipment were USMC LCAC’s, LARC’s and other landing craft.
The video below isn’t about Haiti specifically but it provides a good overview of JLOTS
This video shows INLS in operation in Haiti
I will be looking in more depth at JLOTS in a future post in this series.
Around Port au Prince there were three main JLOTS receiving areas, White, Gold and Red beach.
Red beach was the area between the North and South Piers at the main terminal, White Beach was near the Varreoux oil terminal and Gold Beach between the two
Both the Cornhusker and Cape May were also used to containerise break bulk cargo to make transfer to shore more efficient by reducing the number of crane moves.
However impressive the JLOTS system is, there are a couple of others worth noting, civilian and military
Crowley Maritime operate in the area and were instrumental in hugely increasing container throughput over and above JLOTS.
In addition to shipping a large amount of supplies to the Dominican Republic port of Rio Haina and then on to Haiti Crowley emulated the JLOTS system with larger ships offloading to lighters, except the lighters were actually pretty large.
After an earlier small scale trial the MV Marcajama is an 820 TEU capacity container ship sailed into Port au Prince on the 28th of January and because the ship has its own cranes, was able to offload 202 containers directly onto smaller vessels equipped with bow ramps.
The smaller landing craft style ships were chartered from G&G Shipping built by St Johns Shipbuilding in Florida. Able to carry up to 26 TEU in roll on roll off configuration or if stacked, 46 TEU the Cape Express was one of those used throughout the period (the image below shows a sister ship, the Bahamas Express)
The other commercial landing craft used was the Sea Express II
It is difficult to match the offload capacity of these large landing ships, especially if they can use an expedient ramp at an existing port where container storage and transport facilities exist, as the image below shows
These loading ramps did not exist before the earthquake but with simple earthmoving equipment were relatively quick and easy to construct. So, despite White and Gold beaches being open the combination of the large commercial landing craft and quickly constructed ramps played a significant role in landing supplies.
The problem of double handling remained though, containers had to be offloaded from ships in the harbour and shuttled to the terminal, a time consuming process despite being quicker and arguably more efficient than JLOTS.
What was sorely needed was a working pier that would allow large cargo ships to dock and unload directly, cutting out the double handling overhead, none were available because they had been destroyed.
USTRANSCOM issued a contract with Crowley Marine for two large spudded barges (410 and Atka) to act as piers for larger ships in place of the damaged or destroyed North and South piers, in a not dissimilar manner to the FIPASS barges used in the Falkland Islands.
One barge was intended for the North pier area and another the South, called APN Blue and Red respectively.
Shown below is the North barge or APN Blue
Shown below is the Crowley Barge 410 on the South pier, commonly called Red Barge
Because larger ships could dock and unloaded by mobile Manitowoc cranes directly onto trucks the 400 foot by 100 foot flat deck Crowley barges transformed operations, increasing capacity by a factor of two or three and once the second was installed, JLOTS was only used to carry military stores and vehicles.
To provide some measure of scale, the Crowley Marine tug Justine Foss and RORO barge American Trader docked on February 1st with over 6,000 tonnes of food supplies. The MV Cristina Express large landing craft was used extensively by USAID and Seacor Holdings repaired pipelines between the fuel terminal and harbour that allowed bulk fuel deliveries to be made.
The former Hawaii super ferry’s MV Alakai and MV Huaka were activated by the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) for use on Operation Restore Hope and transferred personnel, vehicles, plant and other supplies.
No case study on ship to shore logistics would be complete without a Mexeflote!
The UK’s response was mostly carried on the RFA Largs Bay (now HMAS Choules) and Mexeflotes were used to transfer the vehicles and supplies to shore in addition to acting as a general purpose transport capability in support of the wider operation
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, DFiD and the armed forces supplied a number of locations with much needed food and other supplies.
Bay Class Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Largs Bay, with members of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, and other members of her embarked military force delivered essential supplies at Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, the ship and her crew continued to work, redistributing World Food Programme (WFP) food and commodities to Haitian communities who were logistically cut off from the rest of the island in the aftermath of the quake.
Since the disaster, the population of Anse-à-Veau, in Nippes province on Haiti’s southern peninsula, was swollen by refugees from Port-au-Prince. With the roads impassable due to mudslides and flooding, the only way to get aid through to the the area has been by occasional air drops.
RFA Largs Bay and its crew were tasked by the WFP to deliver Anse-à-Veau’s first major relief package since the earthquake.
During the four-day relief operation at the village, RFA Largs Bay’s Mexeflote raft shuttled 275,000 ready meals, 30 tonnes of rice, six tonnes of beans, more than 200 boxes of corn soya blend, 100-plus boxes of vegetable oil, and 13 bags of salt to the shore at Anse-à-Veau.
For a great gallery of RFA Largs Bay and the Mexeflote in and around Haiti, click here
On the 18th of June the USCG Cutter Oak arrived and after dropping off relief supplies embarked on her main task of establishing safe navigation; in the next three days the Oak and her crew surveyed and repaired a number of buoys whilst installing a handful of news ones. The Oak is a sister ship of the Walnut covered in the post about Umm Qasr in Iraq 2003.
Leading the Coast Guard response was the 11 person Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit (MTSRU), a rapid response unit whose role is to restore cargo traffic to damaged ports or those suffering from some other incident. Aboard the cutter was also a command and control cell, responsible for coordinating port movements in conjunction with what was left of the Port au Prince Port Authority.
Port Infrastructure Assessment and Repair
The images below show the port a few years before the earthquake
Compared to the images at the beginning of this post the degree of damage is obvious.
The North Pier in front of the storage buildings completely collapsed into the sea taking with it the large overhead gantry crane used for container handling.
A section of the South Pier had also collapsed and there was additional damage in all other areas of the port.
The initial surveys carried out by Army, Navy and Coastguard personnel had focussed on safe passage rather that repair but as soon as traffic was established the task of carrying out a more detailed survey commenced. During the last week of January the combined survey team completed a full survey and repair plan.
Diving in Port au Prince was an unpleasant activity, petroleum, human waste and various other spill/run off combining with poor visibility but over the next several weeks repairs were made.
In addition to the military divers civilian organisations contributed to the port repair activity.
The more you read about the earthquake response the more you realise what a simply magnificent effort it was, Israeli and Iranian teams working side by side, the air and sea logistics effort (especially by the Coastguard, Military Sealift Command and USN/USMC) and medical assistance were all stand outs. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 17 Port and Maritime Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (those magnificent men and mexeflote machines) also get an honourable mention.
But equally, you understand that lady luck and circumstance had a big part.
Supply lines were short, there were many adjacent countries that offered support (not least the Dominican Republic) and many of the responders were already in the area.
It is often said that the more one practices the better ones luck becomes and this was absolutely true for the main body of military forces involved in the response, many having completed large scale exercises that practices many of the capabilities used only the year before.
Relationships were in place and equipment ready.
Despite this, the sheer scale of the response and numbers of participants created many command and control problems.
The geography and time of year ensured that sea conditions were benign, another place and another time may well have completely changed the ability of responders to get so much ashore so quickly.
Doctrine must be sufficiently flexible to allow response to different requirements, JLOTS was attuned to a military requirement but in disaster relief different rules apply.
The importance of material handling equipment and the ability to move supplies out of port areas were again reinforced.
The ISO container is much more efficient than break bulk and the ability of the Cape May and Cornhusker State to load break bulk into containers was invaluable in the avoidance of wastage of crane and lighterage movements, moving half empty containers is a fools errand.
What is abundantly clear is that ‘at scale’ there is no substitute for port facilities, going over the beach is great for the short term but simply cannot meet high volumes. Despite this the JLOTS systems were not overwhelmed but the step change in capacity when the two barges arrived was very noticeable.
Which brings me on to the last observation, civilian organisations have a great deal to offer in ship to shore logistics.
Click here to look at a Google Maps view of the Port au Prince harbour
The barges are still there and have been joined by another, remind anyone of FIPASS?
Sources and Further Reading
The rest of the series
Ship to Shore Logistics – 26 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Deployment and Funding)
Ship to Shore Logistics – 27 (Summary)