Look at any of the marketing material for any new combat vessel these days and there is always a reference to the potable water generation capacity in relation to how it can support Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response operations. Water supply is often a critical problem to be solved in the early phase of such a response and yet the means of getting potable water from the ship to the coast and inland seems to receive less attention.
Using water distribution points to fill plastic bottles and then transfer them to helicopters for transport inland is about as inefficient and expensive as it gets but in the absence of an alternative, better than nothing.
With the right combination of ships, equipment and personnel, a more efficient method will be to utilise water sources onshore, purify/treat, store and transport forward using tankers or standard trucks for bottled water.
For fuel, both the UK and US have capable systems for transferring fuel from afloat tankers to installations on the near shore from where it can be distributed. The UK’s system is called JOFS.
The video below shows JOFS in action in a ship to shore role, making use of Army Work Boats, RE Divers and Mexeflote’s to bring aviation fuel ashore, the system is called the Towed Flexible Barge Discharge System (TFBDS), supplied by DESMI and Trelleborg, 5 are in service. The barge or dracone has a capacity of 300,000 Litres, once it has been filled by connecting to an RFA (or civilian) tanker the barge is towed to within 200m of the shoreline and connected to a manifold raft. this raft is then connected via flexible pipelines to the onshore installation that uses 136,000 Litre flexible pillow tanks.
Using a flexible pipe for potable water transfer from a ship to the shore (like JOFS) has the potential to provide a much higher throughput than helicopters and would also allow the finite number of helicopters to be made available for other tasks.
Once onshore, temporary pipelines might also be used in place of trucks, again, providing a step change in efficiency.
This video from TOHL shows the installation by helicopter of a 1,000m long, 25mm diameter HDPE pipeline in less than 10 minutes, impressive.
25mm might seem like a small pipe, and it is, but even accounting for pipe losses and other factors, the throughput would be around 3,000 Litres per hour. In a 24 hour period at the WHO recommended 15 Litres per day per person, that is just under 5,000 people. These are back of a fag packet calculations but still provide a god indicator.
Another way of viewing that is 3,600 jerrycans, or 70 pallet loads of bottled water.
Half the throughput and it is still a worthwhile transfer rate, especially in difficult terrain that might require trucks to navigate a tortuous route to get the destination.
A second prototype has been completed, the result of a successful Kickstarter Campaign.
Whether this is for the rapid ship to shore transfer of potable water to an onshore distribution point or an inland application with no ships in sight, small, light and rapidly installed pipelines are efficient and make use of scarce resources like helicopters.
I like it!