Joint Port Opening Capability – A Proposal

A proposal for the UK MoD, DFiD and industry to generate a port opening and augmentation capability to be used for defence engagement, military operation enabling and disaster relief purposes.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the political and practical desirability of maintaining Overseas Development Aid (ODA) at 0.7% of GNI and whether DFiD budgets should be reallocated to ‘security’.

It seems that the commitment to 0.7% of GNI will remain but there is further discussion about how it should be spent in a post Brexit ‘Global Britain’

I tend to the opinion that whilst spending on ODA is a valid use of scarce public funds, the current organisational means of spending it is not optimal, not significantly joined up across other departments and certainly, suffering from an image problem in relation to corruption and waste.

The issues of so called ‘dual use’ spending are well known, and generally constrained by OECD definitions of Overseas Development Aid, but I do think these can either be overcome if we have some coherent alternative. If the UK is wise, it will re-align DFiD budgets to trade facilitation and improving the human capital of developing nations but in addition, improving disaster response and industrial/security development should also be priorities.

With that in mind, this is a proposal for a ‘dual use’ capability.

There are three needs on which this proposal to develop a port opening and augmentation capability rests;

Development; ports are a vital element of a nation’s economic development, economic development is a means by which conflict is avoided.

Disaster Relief; storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters often require an international response to bring in relief supplies. A port remains the highest capacity means, if it is damaged it needs repair, and in any case, may also need augmentation.

Defence; we should not always imagine expeditionary deployments need to go over the beach, rapidly developing and exploiting smaller ports is also an option.

I will examine these three needs, look at the changing nature of conflict in the urban littoral and that of coastal environments, define a set of broad requirements and then explore a handful of possible options to meet the requirement.

To summarise, it is a proposal for establish a UK Theatre Entry (Port) Capability and when not being used for military use, utilise that capability for disaster response and building security overseas.



The Changing Coastline and Port Environment

The Defence and Overseas Development Context

Defining the Requirement

Requirement 1 – Design, Contract Management and Rapid Response Survey

Meeting Requirement 1 – Port Survey and Design

Requirement 2 – Port Opening

Meeting Requirement 2 – Port Opening

Requirement 3 – Enhanced Coastline Access

Meeting Requirement 3 – Part A

Meeting Requirement 3 – Part B

Meeting Requirement 3 – Part C

Final Thoughts

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May 30, 2017 7:29 pm

I commend the author for a well-researched and informative piece. Don’t be too self-depreciating, you’re clearly someone with expertise! The article builds upon the Conservative proposal to redefine how we utilise the ODA budget, incorporating and formalising more of what the MOD can deliver as part of a joint enterprise. I fully support that. Delivering a X-Govt (MOD-DFID) Port Opening Capability is a good example of where those interest could align. The two departments could/should certainly come together to better codify a range of likely tasks and roles and responsibilities once the ODA budget is more broadly defined. When it comes to ways and means being packaged and held at specific readiness I’m a little less convinced that the ambition will ever be realised. For the MOD’s part we pretty much still retain a full spectrum Port Enabling Capability, with ends defined as being able to project over a bear beach, through austere ports to off loading at a well-found one. We have survey capability (STRE), ship-to-shore capability, EOD and dive experts, plant and lighterage. What’s new, and not covered in your article, is that we have harnessed a wider array of commercial options with the requirement and partnership we have with Solent Gateway Ltd. There is a Whole Force aspect to this new contract that enables us to supplement existing military means. We have plenty of precedent of being able to work as a supporting department to DFID (and their funding) when required, bringing the all-important Port Enabling capability to bear: Op PANLAKE (Haiti) and Op ZEST (Tristan da Cunha). We can already support the STRIKE concept in the manner you describe. Achieving Speed of Assembly (Port Enabling – Open, Activate, Sustain) is germane to Deterrence and vital ground for Defence. The MOD’s focus must be here and thus we are unlikely to have sufficient extra capacity to act as an insurance policy for others or triple hat it.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
June 4, 2017 2:03 pm

I found this memoire by a Sapper officer of 82 Port Regt AER regarding Op MUSKETEER (Suez 1956) mainly personal but describes quay clearing and trying to get cranes working.

Hugh Neve
June 5, 2017 6:11 am

Congratulations on a comprehensive and detailed article. However… …I did expect more in the way of the traditional TD ‘ISO container porn’.

June 27, 2017 8:20 am

Thanks TD, looking at all the pieces, from March 12 through to this one, I guess it is time to roll up the sleeves and start reading. Any more installments to await? Are you planning to merge it all into an “e-book”?

I agree with Hutch’s ” can already support the STRIKE concept in the manner you describe. Achieving Speed of Assembly (Port Enabling – Open, Activate, Sustain) is germane to Deterrence and vital ground for Defence. The MOD’s focus must be here” and that POV is what gives me an interest for also the more technical aspects… of which I am looking forward to finding a good dose.

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