As described in the previous post, CONCEPT 1 is generally about making modest improvements to existing capabilities, pulling organisations together, enhancing training and developing operational concepts with a spot of new equipment in places.
Survey and mine/IED clearance is an area of particular importance to port opening and augmentations and fortunately, two tasks that UK forces have a well deserved reputation of excellence for.
One might even say the UK leads the world in these areas and in one of the previous posts in this series that looked at existing UK capabilities that should have come through clearly.
The challenge going forward is to maintain the hydrography, survey, specialist search and munitions clearance at the lofty heights they currently enjoy. A number of existing programmes such as Army’s Future Deployable GEOINT and the Royal Navy’s Mine Countermeasures, Hydrography and Patrol Capability (MHPC) would play a significant role in CONCEPT 1.
It might at first be imagined that a port survey would simply comprise of a bathymetric survey of approach routes, berths and turning basins but for a port to be of use to a joint force commander or humanitarian response effort it must include much more.
It is this breadth of need that makes it a relatively complex task and the drives the requirement to involve skills and capabilities across the defence spectrum, and possibly beyond defence as well.
The baseline for a port survey is of course bathymetric and sub surface obstruction information but it should also include the following;
- Berthing and mooring facilities; are they damaged, are they in a good enough condition for shipping and what augmentation or repair is needed
- RORO linkspans, ramps and slipways; are they damaged, are any present, can they support the estimated traffic levels and shipping types
- Aids to navigation; are they present, in the right place and in what condition, can they support safe navigation for military and civilian shipping
- Handling equipment; cranes, reach stackers, forklift trucks and port tractors could all contribute to cargo handling but are they in a serviceable and safe condition, what spares or repairs do they need and how many of each are present
- People; harbour pilots, stevedores, security and engineers are all essential and will be needed to supplement military or aid agency personnel, does the port have a functioning team of people, can they be re-employed if not and is it possible to employ additional local staff
- Warehousing and storage facilities; hard standing, buildings, refrigerated storage and fuel tanks (with their associated pipelines and pumps) allow ships to be cycled through the port quickly, their condition and capacity will form part of the planning calculations
- Access roads; if stores are to move beyond the port the surrounding access roads will need to be assessed
- Others; utilities, security, radio systems and helicopter access are additional survey requirements
Clearly, an RN hydrographic survey team are going to struggle with these so the good people of the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will need to be involved. Specialist civilian surveyors could also be ‘drafted in’, for example those from the UK Hydrographic Office or equipment manufacturer representatives.
As can be imagined, there is plenty of opportunity for sensible joint tasking.
At this point it is assumed that no mines or other unexploded ordnance are in existence at the port location but the capability must be flexible enough to expand to include IED and mine search and clearance, more on this later.
The simple objective is to create an accurate, geo-referenced survey of the port, its facilities and potential for operability at a scale required by operational need.
Surveying the entire port might not be carried out if access is required only in one part, this is important to appreciate, CONCEPT 1 is not a general purpose port rehabilitation capability but one very much tied to operational requirements.
Timescales to complete the initial survey and assessment should be measured in days from arrival, not weeks.
Detail can be added later in the operation but time will most likely be in short supply.
A gap analysis between the as found state and requirements of the joint commander creates a statement of requirements for repair, augmentations and operation.
We should be hopeful that the Mine Countermeasures, Hydrography and Patrol Capability (MHPC) programme delivers a sufficiently open and joint capability to accommodate LAND systems and the additional elements.
Although not a great deal of information exists about MHPC the bits of information released point to a set of modular equipment sets that can be deployed from a number of maritime platforms or even air deployed and operated from the shore. Elements of MHPC would obviously therefore reside within CONCEPT 1, they could well be deployed aboard with traditional hydrographic survey vessels or detached.
The two survey vessels, HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise sit perfectly in this requirement and a recent operation is a great example of the type of mission as envisaged by CONCEPT 1. HMS Echo completed a survey of the Libyan port of Misratah, updating charts and surveying the port area following a similar visit in 2012.
The image below clearly shows the channel depth and port areas where access might be limited
Most ports will already have some information available in the public domain or available in the Additional Military Layers (AML) data set from the UKHO Defence Maritime Geospatial Intelligence Centre, as ratified by NATO under STANAG 7170, but given the locations of likely target ports detailed information may not be available so a rapid environment assessment is the first stage in augmenting any existing information.
AML supports the following information sets;
- Contour Line Bathymetry (CLB)
- Environment, Seabed, and Beach (ESB)
- Large Bottom Objects (LBO)
- Maritime Foundation Facilities (MFF)
- Routes, Areas, and Limits (RAL)
- Small Bottom Objects (SBO)
In addition to AML, the Defence Maritime Geospatial Intelligence Centre provides Environmental Briefing Dockets (EBD), Strategic Port Products and Beach Intelligence and Survey Database (BISD) but they do not provide specific port capabilities information.
This additional material may be available through the wider defence geospatial information and intelligence community, the Defence Geographic Centre in Feltham for example.
If not, that’s where the survey capability comes in.
Both HMS Echo and Enterprise are equipped with a number of small boats including a Survey Motor Launch, the HMS Enterprise launch is called Spitfire. These launches allow survey equipment to be carried into very shallow waters to collect data which is then merged and referenced to complete the complete picture.
The 9 tonne 9m long survey launches are fitted with a variety of equipment including a Kongsberg 2040 Multibeam Echo Sounder, Kongsberg EA400 Single Beam Echo Sounder and a GeoAcoustics (now Kongsberg) 2094 Side Scan Sonar
These systems are combined to create accurate and high resolution imagery, almost photograph like.
Different techniques can be combined to create incredibly detailed and accurate surveys and it is this combining, using common open standards, that enables a single picture to be compiled, revealing areas that need repair or augmentation in readiness for trafficking.
Multibeam, single beam and sidescan sonar is usually used for bathymetry or depth and relief measurements. Tilting the sensor allows data to be gathered right up to the water surface and the high resolution produces photo like very accurate imagery. A higher frequency scanning sonar is often used for collecting imagery from underwater structures, scour, sediment accumulation and pier damage for example and these are sometimes combined.
A relatively new technique that is seeing increasing use is integrating sonar with laser scanning to produce a seamless and georeferenced above and below water picture.
The laser scanner can be carried by the same survey boat that also carries the sonar and when combined with an accurate GPS and camera systems can be used to generate a single above and below waterline image.
What characterises these systems is they are mostly deployed on a survey launch, workboat or RHIB not a large survey vessel., the image below shows laser scanning and sonar equipment combined on a single survey boat.
Surface and sub surface solutions are used for the harbour and associated structures such as piers but they cannot cover the rest of the ports facilities, warehouses, storage yards and roadways for example.
Aerial surveys are one answer, equipment could easily be carried on an embarked helicopter or one made available specifically for the task but the revolution in cheap and effective unmanned equipment has been eagerly seized upon by survey and mapping industry and this burgeoning capability could cheaply and easily exploited to improve the survey output from CONCEPT 1
Commercial satellite imagery providers such as Digital Globe and Saab Vricon can provide geo corrected high resolution satellite imagery and 3D data on demand.
Above ground equipment, bridge and pier visual surveys can be quickly carried out by cheap quad or hexacopters
If there exists a risk of unexploded munitions or other danger to manned vessels an unmanned system could be deployed.
The Royal Navy is an existing Kongsberg Hydroid REMUS 100 (and 600) AUV user.
Both are mature and capable systems with a wide range of sensors that can be used to supplement the manned systems or used alone.
Last year, the Royal Navy contracted with Kongsberg to upgrade the 12 in service REMUS100 systems to include a BlueView Technologies 3D MicroBathymetry system, Kongsberg Geoacoustics GeoSwath interferrometric sonar (datasheet), modular endcaps and digital ultra short baseline (USBL) acoustic positioning systems. Some were also fitted with an Inertial Navigation System.
Although tide information should be relatively well known and predictable with appropriate software such as Admiralty Total Tide from the UK Hydrographic Office simple electronic tide gauges could be installed by the survey team to gather definitive data.
Divers would be used for additional underwater survey tasks, whether from the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps or Royal Navy. The Royal Navy MCM vessels have specialist diver support facilities and deployable containerised equipment is widely available from commercial sources such as SPM, Divex and Hydra
Diving depths will be shallow so the complication of saturation diving equipment can be dispensed with so a couple of containers would support a small dive team with compressors, cylinders, equipment storage and maintenance space and planning/dive control facilities.
Because the possibility of heavily contaminated water is high, caused by damage to chemical, fuel or sewage treatment, suitable equipment must be available to the dive team, the ‘Dirty Harry‘ system from Divex for example.
For the onshore survey elements that cannot easily be referenced against a map layer some extensible database may be needed, building on open source and commercial information which is very comprehensive, the Lloyds List, IHS Fairplay Ports and Terminals Guide or Guide to Port Entry for example.
Collecting data on equipment condition requires an appreciation of the equipment being surveyed so personnel from the various electrical, mechanical, communications and fuels management disciplines found across the REME, RN, RLC and RE will be needed and a consistent means of capturing data so that is can be classified and combined with other asset databases.
These systems already exists commercially and could be implemented relatively quickly, cheaply and easily, it is a typical field workforce engineering requirement.
The survey team will also need access to manufacturers parts catalogues, service manuals and other reference information.
Whatever survey technique is used the common denominator is a huge amount of raw data.
This raw data has to be collated and analysed before it can be used to aid decision making.
If everything were being coordinated from a dedicated survey vessel like HMS Echo then the ops room and data analysis facilities should be sufficient but in a later post on deployability I am going to have a look at a fly forward capability that can gain access to the port quickly, by air or air and short sea or overland transfer.
This means that data processing, storage and chart/map production facilities are going to have to be mobile.
Containerised workspaces are available from many vendors .
The video above shows an offshore model which brings with it specific environmental and safety requirements but air portable lightweight shelters from a wide variety of vendors could be used, even a simple Portakabin would be suitable.
Data processing needs to be fast and the data volume is likely to be very large so that’s bags of processor and storage capacity.
To satisfy the data centre market a number of vendors can now supply self contained containerised data centres with integral power, cooling, fire detection and suppression systems.
A pair of 20 foot ISO containers could be fitted with the server and storage required, printers, consumables and workstations, similar to the Army’s new TIGAS (Tactical Information and Geospatial Analysis System) delivered under the Future Deployable GEOINT (FDG) programme.
Whether deployed onto a ship or ashore the simple fact that they are self contained means enhanced deployability
Reaching back to the UK over existing communications networks would allow the data set to be analysed further and disseminated over open or closed networks as required, in a humanitarian response scenario it would make sense to push the collated information onto the internet so non governmental agencies such as UNOSATcould easily access it, build upon and use it as needed.
If the port has suspected mines or IEDS then the survey task would be integral to search and clearance operations. In many regards, hydrographic survey and mines countermeasures share many techniques and technologies as evidenced by the RN’s single unifying MHPC programme.
Because of this synergy between survey and mine countermeasures I have included it in the same post.
For clearing sea mines it would be normal to make use of the Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels detailed in the post on current UK capabilities (and many more on Think Defence)
They would use their hull mounted sonars and unmanned systems like the REMUS 100 to identify mine like objects, classify them and determine the appropriate means of disposal, either using clearance divers or the Seafox one shot disposal system.
Clearance divers would locate the device as previously located by the recce AUV using the Shark Marine Navigator shown in the video below
The Royal Navy Fleet Diving Squadron has two Diving Groups, North and South, that provide EOD from the high water mark to the UK territorial limit, on vessels, the RN estate and offshore facilities. The Royal Engineers are responsible for the clearance of WWII German bombs (except those in crashed aircraft which the RAF look after), land mines and military booby traps. Just to make this even more complex, they also deal with service ammunition above the high water mark or non tidal water (rivers and lakes) except those specifically within the remit of the RAF, RN or RLC. The Royal Engineers will also be used where functions like drilling or excavation are required and also provide specialist high risk search capabilities. The Land Forces EOD and Search Branch was established in 2010 with the aim of providing a single focus for all policy, direction and inspectorate responsibilities. The Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as was, because of their expertise with ammunition have generally dealt with the more complex IED’s. The RAOC were made responsible for disposal of defective munitions in WWI and this continues today, they retain the lead for all IED disposal activities.
Or perhaps a bit more up to date…
The video below demonstrates the broad range of tasks the RN Diving Branch carry out
Joint Defence Pamphlet 2/02 Joint Service Explosive Ordnance sets out the details of who does what and when, read here
The specialist Royal Engineers Search Team (REST) would be deployed for buildings and other port facilities, and military working dogs also.
Recce by kicking it is not recommended
It could well be possible that elements of all 5 dive and/or EOD clearance communities across the three services are deployed in a port environment, jointery in action!
Even without the threat of mines, IED’s and unexploded ordnance the port environment is a dangerous one for divers and other personnel
Before any kind of port repair or enhancement operation can commence an accurate picture of the port and its facilities is a pre requisite. If any unexploded munitions, mines or IED’s are present these will have tl be identified, marked and made safe as needed. The entire port would not need to be cleared immediately but just enough, the rest could be cleared in increments, opening up additional capacity as the operation progressed in parallel with other activities.
The great thing is the vast majority of the required capabilities already exist across all three services, these would need to be combined into a single capability and appropriate procedures developed but this does not need significant investment. Yes, there are enhancements that could be made and additional capabilities added (especially the fly forward arrangements) but these can be built over time.
I would finally add that in the context of this post, clearance means explosive clearance, not salvage and debris removal that will be covered in the following posts.
Sources and Further Reading
Other Posts in the Series