Meeting Requirement 1 – Port Survey and Design

To meet the Requirement 1, the first task is to compare it with existing capabilities, and in this regard, the UK is actually well placed.

Where some augmentation will be required is in the rapid response and integrated port survey capability.

Existing Capabilities

Relevant existing capabilities reside in both the British Army and Royal Navy, in addition to some others in the RAF and civilian agencies and organisations.

Survey – The Royal Navy

I am not going to go into the deep water hydrography capability or covert beach survey as it is not relevant for this subject but shallow water survey is vitally important and the Royal Navy has a range of small craft and systems for this application.

HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise are relatively new vessels and are both equipped with sophisticated sonar systems, seabed sampling and analysis equipment and a small survey launch, Sapphire and Spitfire respectively. The ships are unusual in Royal Navy service because they operate at very high utilisation with a 75 personnel crew providing 48 on board at any one time that allows the ship to operate 330 days per year. They are equipped with azimuth thrusters and a bow thruster for precise manoeuvre and station keeping.

hms enterprise loch ewe 2013

In addition to their survey role they can embark additional personnel in the mine countermeasures command role. Their equipment includes side scan, multi beam and single beam sonar, an oceanographic and seabed profiler, bottom sampling equipment and Doppler current measuring system.

The 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.

Survey Motor Boat Spitfire

Equipment carried on the 9 tonne 9m long survey launches includes a Kongsberg 2040 Multibeam Echo Sounder, Kongsberg EA400 Single Beam Echo Sounder and a GeoAcoustics (now Kongsberg) 2094 Side Scan Sonar

The EM2040 is used for high resolution mapping and inspection in shallow water. For accurate survey work and second layer detection, the EA400 single beam echo sounder is deployed in conjunction with GPS. The Sonar 2094 is a dual frequency sidescan system used for wide area sea bed scanning.

Kongsberg 2094 Sidescan Sonar

These systems and technologies are combined with RN survey expertise to produce extremely accurate surveys and charts of the seabed and water column.

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.

The image below shows just such an image of the port of Misrata in Libya.


Produced by the Royal Navy

SMB Sapphire and Spitfire

Survey – Civilian and Joint Organisations

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).

Additional material may be available through the wider defence geospatial information and intelligence community, the Defence Geographic Centre in RAF Wyton for example.

Open source and commercial information can also be comprehensive, the Lloyds List, IHS Fairplay Ports and Terminals Guide or Guide to Port Entry for example. There is no reason why this information could not be exploited.

Satellite imagery is now widely available from a number of civilian organisations, often very quickly available, high quality and readily accessible.

Commercial satellite imagery providers such as Digital Globe and Saab Vricon can provide geo corrected high resolution satellite imagery and 3D data on demand. A comprehensive picture should be available for most ports and these can be confirmed and expanded using a combination of rapid airborne surveys, physical inspection and local knowledge.

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Survey – British Army

The British Army (Royal Engineers) also maintain an extensive GEOINT and survey capability that could potentially be used in a port survey task. The Future Deployable Geospatial Intelligence (FDG) Project was part of a wider programme called PICASSO that included Lockheed Martin UK, KNK, Marshall Specialist Vehicles, Polaris Consulting, Safety Assurance Services and SciSYS.

The Tactical Information and Geospatial Analysis System (TIGAS) includes 11 Mowag Duro II 6×6 vehicles that provide a two man tactical exploitation environment and 3 20ft ISO container size shelters used to house two man tactical map distribution points (TMDP).

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Future Deployable GEOINT 2

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FDG provides a data centric, geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) management, discovery, dissemination and exploitation capability that addresses the deployable requirements of the Intelligence Collection Group (ICG), including the provision of mobile and manoeuvrable working environments at the tactical level.

FDG essentially consolidates a number of UOR’s such as the DATAMAN servers introduced during Op HERRICK and improves capabilities across the board although the selection of DURO is an interesting choice. It will allow subject matter experts to maintain over 350 individual geo referenced layers such as CIED, medical, imagery, patrol tracks and route characteristics. Dataman is based on ESRI software that uses Dell servers housed in ruggedised cases, weighing approximately 300kg. DataMan light reduced the weight by using Helix GIS Servers based on Getac X500 rugged laptops. The front end uses a web based tool called GeoViewer that looks like the now very familiar Google maps. Layers can be switched on and off and are available based on the users profile. Where communications networks are constrained or intermittent cached data can be used and a recent contract award to iOra will enhance this important aspect. FDG achieved FOC in 2013 and has been in use since.

The capability is provided by 42 Regiment Royal Engineers as part of the Joint Force Intelligence Group (JFIG), comprising two Geographic Squadrons (13 SQN and 14 SQN) and a Support Squadron (16 SQN), all based at Roy Lines, Wyton.

42 Regiment also includes an Army Reserve Geo squadron, 135 Geographic

Unmanned airborne systems such as Watchkeeper and RAF Reaper may provide high level imagery and the smaller UAV’s such as Desert Hawk would also be on hand to provide information in support of the survey, depending on the operational context.

Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO)

The MoD Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) team coordinates towing, salvage, heavy lift, operational moorings, port clearance and underwater engineering on behalf of the Royal Navy and other government departments.

SALMO is an interesting but little know organisation within the MoD but provides first responder personnel on short notice and a broad span of expertise. Some of its personnel are sponsored reserves. The team is based at Greenock and Devonport, with its HQ at Foxhill, near Bath.

JFD has recently been awarded a 4 year, £10m, framework contract by the SALMO team for the provision of provision of spares, technical support, integration and repair of new equipment, offshore surveyor support, hire and supply of task specific tooling as well as logistics support.

BMT and Adus Deep Ocean will also be contracted through the framework contract.

MCM and Port Clearance

Although in many cases, the clearance of mines and IED’s from a port environment will not be required, it must be considered as part of the overall capability. It is also an area where the UK is extremely well resourced, with a range of cutting edge capabilities maintained across all three services.

I have a detailed document/article on UK Mine Countermeasures at the link below

When we think of a mine in a maritime context we tend to visualise these;

Naval Mines

Not these;


But in a port opening or amphibious operation deployed force may well encounter more of the latter than the former.

In an amphibious operation that makes use of beaches, the beach itself and areas immediately to the rear may well be mined with conventional anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. If the object of the operation is to augment or open an already established port the scope for conventional mining and IED’s is extremely broad.

Port facilities, warehouses, cranes, quaysides and harbour walls are easy to mine but difficult to clear.

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, 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.

Royal Engineer Search team (REST) will also provide an essential element of clearance capability.

The principle EOD remotely operated vehicle is now the Northop Grumman/Remotec CUTLASS, replacing the well-known ‘Wheelbarrow’. Its sophisticated arm has nine degrees of movement and can be fitted with a variety of attachments. The arms high dexterity is enabled by the RA Rodriguez ‘Reali-Slim’ bearings and 6 wheel drive system provides high mobility.

All three services now have CUTLASS in service.

Army HQ 2013-042-005 DEMS Trg Regt Bicester.JPG

All three services (in a joint capability) have impressive capabilities for EOD and mine clearance within their specialist areas.

If a port, and its approaches need clearing, the UK is very well placed to do it.

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Port Design and Operating Capabilities

The MoD’s port design and operating expertise resides in 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC, 165 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC, 509 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (STRE) and the less well known Engineer and Logistics Staff Corps, part of 77 Brigade.

17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC is described as;

17 Port & Maritime Regiment RLC are based at Marchwood, near Southampton, on the fringe of the New Forest. The unit provides the UK Armed Forces’ only specialist Port & Maritime, Vehicle Support Specialist, Operational Hygiene, and Mortuary Affairs capabilities, and deploys regularly in support of operations and exercises around the world, including in support of the Royal Marines.

The Regiment consists of two Port Squadrons (51 (Work Boat) and 52 (Mexeflote)), a Port Enabling and Headquarters Squadron (53), and attached REME Workshop.

It operates a wide variety of vehicles, plant, and vessels, including: Workboats, Combat Support Boats, the unique and capable MEXEFLOTE rafts, and Rigid Raider Craft. It also has the only military Dive Team in the RLC, responsible for a range of tasks including port clearance and vessel maintenance.

17 Port and Maritime is paired with an Army Reserve regiment, 165 (Wessex) Port and Enabling Regiment, which has the following; 264 Squadron – HQ, 142 Squadron – Vehicle, 232 Squadron – Port, 265 Squadron – Port, 266 Squadron – Port and 710 Squadron – Operational Hygiene

170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group is responsible for infrastructure delivery and has a number of Works Groups.

  • 20 Works Group (air support)
  • 62 Works Group (water)
  • 63 Works Group (electrical power and engineering works)
  • 64 Works Group (fuel)
  • 65 Works Group (civilian infrastructure, road and rail)
  • 66 Works Group (geotechnical, testing and air support)

509 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (STRE) is an Army Reserve unit that specialises in Port Infrastructure.

A good example of their capability is relevant to this proposal, a port survey for the Government of Anguilla in the Caribbean in 2014.

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Two personnel from 509 STRE conducted a detailed survey of the Road Bay jetty.

From the MoD;

Road Bay is the only port of Anguilla. It is the port at which RN and RFA Ships anchor when visiting the island. There is one sole jetty in the harbour and it required a complete structural survey in order that it can be deemed fit for purpose. Anguilla lacks the professional expertise to undertake the task and asked if the MOD could assist, rather than having to tender out the task to an external commercial company.

The original jetty at Road Bay was built out of timber during the late 1960s by 33 Field Squadron Royal Engineers following the Anguillan revolution and the split from St Kitts. The current concrete structure was built in 1978 and extended in 1986 when a concrete jetty link was also added, replacing the original timber structure. It has previously been inspected in late 2002 and some repairs were carried out as a result of that inspection. Early on Sunday 3rd March 2014, Warrant Officer Class 2 Carl Green and myself, Major Andy Nixon MBE both from 509 STRE (Port Infra), boarded a plane at London Gatwick Airport to Antigua en-route to the island of Anguilla to carry out the structural survey. On arrival, we were met by Mr Bancroft Battick, the Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Infrastructure for the Government of Anguilla, who was to be the host throughout the trip, which was planned to last 5 days.

The survey required both surface and sub-surface inspections of the jetty, which in turn meant much of the task was spent either below water or underneath the jetty structure. It quickly became obvious that the jetty has had a hard life, with significant damage caused by impacts from ships and over loading of the structure with significant delamination of the concrete caused by corrosion of the steel reinforcement where the structural members have been overstressed and cracked, allowing ingress of sea water. Damage to the structure is evident throughout and a significant amount of urgent repairs are needed in order to extend the life of the jetty.

After submitting a detailed report, development consultancy was provided by DLN Consultants International in Barbados and in May 2016, HMG approved an EC$4m loan for completing a full set of repairs.

The detailed survey can be found at this link.

Across the wider group there is expertise in design, construction, technical consultancy in a wide group of specialisms, technical reconnaissance, contract management, accredited materials testing and project management.

The breadth and depth of expertise in 170 is significant, and wholly relevant to this proposal.

The final part of the expertise jigsaw is the Engineer and Logistic Staff Corps (E&LSC), a network of senior civilian engineers. E&LSC is a little-known organisation comprising senior executives of sixty British logistics and engineering organisations that retain military rank but have no military duties or pay.

They exist purely to provide expert advice, often characterised as ‘all rank and no file’

Members of the E&LSC were involved with planning and delivery of the RORO linkspan used in Kuwait in 2003 as part of force build prior to operations in Iraq, members are drawn from a wide range of British commercial organisations.

Summary of Existing Capabilities

Looking across the above, it is clear the UK certainly has the building blocks in place from which to meet the requirement.

Without a shadow of doubt, the expertise exists.

The next section will examine how these existing capabilities can be combined and augmented to fully meet the Requirement 1.

Establishing a Port Survey, Design and Operate Capability

What should be clear from above is that the capability exists, but it is spread across the Royal Navy, Royal Logistic Corps, 77th Brigade, the Royal Engineers and a couple of MoD/civilian organisations, Defence Geographic Centre for example.

Not only is the capability and expertise distributed across the defence organisation, it is also distributed in geography; the DGC is in RAF Wyton, RN Survey at Devonport, 17 port and Maritime in Southampton and 509 STRE in Chilwell, near Nottingham, for example. And, that is before we look at EOD and MCM.

Some of the capabilities, specifically 509 STRE, are Army Reserve, which means the rapid response to short term requirements and continuous deployment for building capacity overseas is somewhat constrained.

To remind you, Requirement 1 has two components;

  • Ongoing port survey, design, contract management and operations support to underpin building capacity overseas activities,
  • Rapid response port survey at 24 hours notice to move in support of contingent military operations and disaster response.

To labour the point, the general capability already exists in various places within UK defence and industry, this proposal is to harness that, and reinforce it so that it achieves both scale and sustainability.


Without a mass of personnel, it would be impossible to deliver against any of the objectives and so the first part of the proposal is a simple one.

By establishing a full time team of port survey and design engineers, with attendant back office support, the critical mass around which means of meeting subsequent requirements can coalesce.

The team would essentially operate in two modes; Business as Usual, and Response.

In BAU, the team would operate in response to a planned series of port development programmes and to a defined project plan. It is unlikely that significant force protection would be required, or that IED/mine clearance would feature.

Size and composition of this BAU team would be dependent upon many factors, mostly money, but it should be large enough to sustain a response team on 24 hours notice to move, which dictates a base number. The base number is dependent upon the size of the survey team, the larger the survey team, the larger the base number from which it is drawn. Factor in training, leave, career change and other factors and this base number can grow more than might be expected.

I will look at sizing the response team later but one means of reducing its size would be to make extensive use of ‘reach back’, where raw data is transmitted back to the UK in real time as the survey progresses and is then processed in the UK for subsequent analysis and report generation.

With even a vague idea of size in mind, the next difficult issue is one of composition and location.

Because the capability looks at the whole port and its nearshore environment, the survey team must comprise a mix of skills. Being able to conduct an underwater survey in the port and its approaches and a condition survey of port equipment and aerial mapping, to name but three, requires skills that are found in multiple services and organisations; divers, hydrographers, cartographers, civil engineers, communication specialists and electrical engineers are not usually found in one place.

Which, points to a joint organisation, and where appropriate, that joint organisation could include civilian, FTRS, regular and reserve personnel.

Where the team should be based?

Chillwell, where 509 STRE are based, Southampton for 17 Port and Maritime, Devonport for the RN survey element or even the Defence Geographic Centre at RAF Wyton. A case could even be made for the team to be based near Brize Norton to reduce deployment times for rapid deployability.

Availability of suitable space and proximity to the bulk of the required skills would be a factor.

Would the team be inside the MoD organisational structure, or DFiD, would it be predominantly civilian or military, and if it was in the MoD, would it be an RE or RLC unit?

All these would need to be decided but the simple matter is, building the capability would require a very high level of inter-service and departmental cooperation.

Equipment and Transport

To conduct a detailed port survey the team will need to be equipped for a range of scenarios.

The scenarios are many, but can be loosely grouped into three categories;

  1. A damaged or austere port with no risk or IED’s, mines or attacks e.g. Port au Prince in Haiti 2010.
  2. A damaged or austere port with a risk or IED’s, mines or attacks e.g. Umm Qasr 2003.
  3. A well found port with no risk or IED’s, mines or attacks e.g. Kuwait in 2003

They may also be conducted across a range of timeliness requirements.

In a deliberate operation, one of the Royal Navy Echo class survey vessels may well host the survey team, and deploy its survey motor boat. In the rapidly deployed scenario, the ship would not be available and therefore an air deployed capability is needed.

Operating in the context of a wider operation, the survey team would benefit from in theatre transport, force protection and logistic support. This means rapid deployability of the survey team and there supportability becomes less of a concern because they are already in theatre.

With this in mind, and putting aside the potential for clearance operations and extensive force protection, the basic transport and equipment requirements of a deployable port survey team become clearer, regardless whether they are operating as part of a rapid response HADR mission, or a less timely mission to enable the theatre entry of a Strike Brigade.

The mode of transport may vary, and the supporting force likewise, but the survey function remains relatively constant, in that, the team must;

  • With its equipment, be self-sustaining for 72 hours minimum.
  • Able to be transported to theatre in a single C-17 lift
  • Able to drive to the port from a suitable airport
  • Equipment must be demountable from vehicles and able to operate from ships of opportunity

Before deploying the survey team would extract information from existing sources; satellite imagery, Admiralty Charts and commercial information. This information would be loaded onto rugged laptops and taken with them.

During the journey the team would plan the survey, optimal approach routes for example.

Port Map

The baseline requirement for a survey is to determine the general outline of the port, facilities and its buildings, before progressing to the underwater environment and a condition survey of built environment and port equipment.

To conduct a typical 72 hours survey task the team comprise approximately 12 personnel.

Rapid Airborne Survey

A rapid airborne survey of a port environment could easily be completed using any one of the many commercial unmanned systems now available at low cost. The two market leaders are senseFly and QuestAV. Both can produce hyper accurate geo referenced digital imagery using autonomous unmanned aircraft.

Post flight analysis is carried out to add reference points, ground information and stitch the imagery together into an orthomosaic image. It can then be exported in a number of formats suitable for inclusion in mapping and GIS systems, whether they be publically accessible through a UN On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) and MapBox or defence only.

QuestAV have recently introduced a system specifically for the marine environment called QuestUAV Aqua (imaginative I know!).

The technology is rapidly advancing, especially the software.

Examples include Icaros, with their OneButton suite and Precision Mapper from Precision Hawk

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This kind of rapid assessment and mapping system is probably enough for an initial survey, allowing the team to create an accurate map of the port facilities, list buildings and equipment, evaluate routes and estimate capacities. Additional information can be obtained by traditional surveying techniques and laser scanning to create accurate 3D models, should that be needed.

3D building scan

For damage assessment, digital mapping tools can also be used to estmate debris volume.

Underwater Environment Survey

The underwater environment includes berth areas, turning circles and approach lanes, a hydrographic survey is therefore high on the list of requirements. Under keel clearances, floating and sunken debris, and declared depths are an important factor in determining whether a vessel can use the port; vessel squat, manoeuvring characteristics, accuracy of tidal ranges, sea state and rate of siltation will also need to be understood. S-57, the relevant standard, requires uncertainty to be quantified in ‘Zones of Confidence’

If the Royal navy Echo class hydrographic vessels are available then the standalone survey team would simply concentrate on other aspects of the survey, but in a disaster or rapid response scenario, they would be on their own and have to produce the underwater survey.

Unmanned systems such as the Royal Navy REMUS 100 AUV’s could be employed in the rapid environmental assessment and survey tasks. They are compact, robust and proven and have all the necessary modules, sensors and software to allow their use in a port environment, even if there is a suspect mine threat.

Handheld sonars and cameras could also be used to enhance the overall picture.

Tide gauges will be used to confirm tidal information, this is important to establish declared depth ranges at different times of day. Valeport and RS Aqua are two UK manufacturers that can supply internally powered and data logging gauges.

Tide Guages

They can be easily fitted using standard hand tools.

A new technique that is gaining traction is to combine above and below water scanning to present a single model.

3D Scan 1

Laser scanning is also being utilised for this combined view application.

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3D Scan 2

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3D Scan 3

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The Built Environment Survey

The kind of built environment survey required does not include a full and detailed survey but is more of a condition survey; can warehouses support expected cargo volumes, are they safe, can they be secured, can they accommodate chilled or perishable items.

Photography and distance measuring tools, coupled with the aerial survey tools should be sufficient.

Berthing and mooring equipment condition and RORO ramp facilities would be subject to a visual inspection. Of greater criticality would the condition and strength of mooring piles, and those supporting wharfs and jetties.

For the latter, dive equipment would be needed.

One of the observations from the Haiti case response was the need to operate in an environment that contained sewage, petrochemicals and other unpleasant pollutants. Protective equipment is available and should be included as required. The ‘Dirty Harry’ system from Divex is a good example, a complete system designed specifically for diving in contaminated waters.

Divex Dirty Harry System

Other Survey Items

Completing the survey would be an assessment of aids to navigation, port lighting, stores handling equipment (fixed and mobile) and an assessment of the capability and capacity of the local workforce. The team will need to conduct a physical inspection of plant, equipment and facilities and wherever possible, conduct this in conjunction with the locals, for it is they that will have intimate knowledge that should not be discounted.

Using mapping and GIS system, fixed infrastructure can have additional data attached.

A bespoke application may be needed that allows rapid capture of imagery and status information in order to build up the overall picture and transfer as necessary to any shared data set.

Although I have not discussed this a great deal the need for a common and cohesive ‘picture’ of the port, its facilities and environs is one of the most important parts of the survey process.

Having isolated pieces of data will result in wasted effort so workflow, IT systems and data capture equipment is an important part of the equipment requirement.

Satellite communication equipment would allow the team to start sending survey data back to the UK as soon as they start, the reach-back process and important part of exploiting UK based expertise and facilities.

Boats and Vehicles

None of the equipment described above needs to be permanently mounted on anything, but it does need to be transported to the port and moved around within it.

The team will also need life support and a working environment that is self-sufficient.

The transportability requirement also need careful consideration when selecting vehicles and boats.

Although the A400M or even C-130 might be sometimes used it is more likely that a C-17 on national tasking will be used for the rapid response task and so it is the C-17 cargo bay dimensions that need to be considered. Maximising the cube is important because it leads to considerations of whether to use trailers or different types of vehicle and of course, what type of boat to use.

C17 Cargo Bay Dimensions

As the diagram above shows, taking out the ramp space (which is often used for pallets) the C-17 has a cargo box of approximately 5.5m wide, 20m long with a height depending how far along the cargo bay you are, between 4.5 and 4m.

Whatever the survey team use, it must fit inside those dimensions.

The easiest option would be to dispense with a large boat altogether and use inflatable craft like the Zodiac FC470 Inflatable Raiding Craft MkIII or Avon WS525 inflatable craft used by the mine countermeasures force, but I think this would be a sub optimal solution given the amount of sonar, motion sensing, display and positioning equipment needed to be carried for the survey task.

Avon and Zodiac

A general purpose workboat is also required for other tasks such as surveying aids to navigation and diver support so it would be good to combine the two.

It is here that a number of compromises and trade-offs might have to be made; the survey and diver support role requires consideration of speed, shelter, hull strength, power provision, manoeuvrability, deck space, endurance, sea keeping, stability, fuel consumption and any number of other characteristics.

Above all though, transportability and ease of launch and recovery are the main limiting factors.

Launch and recovery via a slipway ramp or beach may not be possible and so launch over the quayside using a hydraulic jib or crane may be the only viable method, this will impose weight limits unless we also want to send a crane with the survey team.

In order to accommodate both methods (slipway and jib) the workboat will have to be trailer mounted.

The equipment most likely in service equipment to fit the basic requirement is the RE/RLC Combat Support Boat and its specialist trailer.

Combat Support Boat Trailer 02

Unladen weight is 4.75 tonnes, length 8.8m, beam 2.77m and draught 0.65m. It is smaller than the Mustang Marine Spitfire/Sapphire survey launches embarked on Echo and Enterprise, but not that much. The CSB trailer from Oldbury adds another 6.1 tonnes, and is 10m long.

At over 11 tonnes, the CSB and trailer is not a small load and so it is usually towed by large logistics vehicles, as the image above shows.

Together, the total length of the trailer and truck will be short of the 20m of the C-17 cargo deck. At over 3.5m width it would only leave 2m width for any other vehicle which might result in a C-17 only able to carry a single truck and a single CSB trailer. We could try and use a shorter vehicle, a shorter or narrower boat. A short wheelbase MAN HX60 is available but not in service and would not release enough length to be useable for another vehicle in any case.

The shorter vehicles in service like Land Rovers and Duro’s do not have the towing capacity.

There are vehicles available on the open market such as the Mercedes Benz Unimog Tool Carrier that has the towing capacity and approximately 5.2m long. This would allow another short wheelbase vehicle to fit within the 20m C-17 cargo deck but still leaves the width problem, two very short wheelbase vehicles and the CSB/trailer would be all that could be carried.

A shorter and narrower workboat would unlock much of the C-17 useable space, although of course, it may be compromised as a work boat. One that could be stacked would also be useful if two stacked was less than the 4.5m height of the C-17 cargo deck.

These are interesting trade-offs but deployability is the driving factor which leads to an outline specification of 5-6m long and less than 2.5m beam. For durability, aluminium construction is preferred, with a lightweight or demountable wheelhouse shelter. There are many small craft manufacturers in the UK who should be able to fulfil such a requirement, the images below show Alnmaritec 6m x 2m workboats without a wheelhouse.

Alnmatitec workboat

Another possible design choice is a 6-7m workboat from Munson Workboats in the USA. Resembling a small landing craft they are adaptable, available in many configurations and sturdy, with a good track record.

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An interesting alternative to using a conventional workboat and trailer would be an amphibious vehicle. The reason an amphibious vehicle is worth considering is to maximise space inside the C-17 and avoid the need for a trailer to launch and recover the workboat on a beach. Most available designs are optimised for short river crossings or similar short distance calm water applications, not launch and recovery over a beach or survey and diver support tasks inside a port.

Contenders might include;

The CTruck Avenger amphibious rescue and survey vehicle, Searoader Amphitruck and Gibbs Phibian. The Sea Legs concept is also worthy of consideration, although the workboat would still need transporting via vehicle for any appreciable distance it would negate the need for a trailer. The technology has been licenced to a number of builders including Stabicraft and ReconCraft.

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The craft can be fitted with the survey and diver support equipment.

One of the key attributes of these smaller work boats is their relatively narrow beam, less than 2.4m. It is this narrow beam that is so critical for carriage inside the C17 because it allows a second payload to be carried side by side, in our case, another set of vehicles.

The next key decision is means of transport, and launch and recovery.

Because of the potential conditions at the target port the workboat may be launched in three modes;

  • Slipway
  • Beach
  • Lift in

Slipway and beach launch would use a trailer, these are widely available.

If no facilities exist for slipway or beach launch the workboat could use the lift in launch method, effectively, craning it over the side of a quayside.

The conventional solution would be to use a hydraulic telescopic jib as fitted to many British Army vehicles but this might be unsuitable as this type of jib generally speaking, is not used for lifting and lowering loads beneath the ground or load bed level.

Cranes are usually used for boat launching.

Boat launch crane

Taking a crane with the survey team just for launching and recovering the 1-2 tonnes workboat would be wasteful.

Three options are available.

First, use a larger jib than would be needed just for the weight that would accommodate a higher lift using fixed length strops and therefore enough clearance to reach lower than ground level. Second, use a truck mounted crane and third, use a demountable device.

A demountable crane such the Unic URW-376 has the lift and reach for the workboat and when stowed, is relatively compact, especially in height, an important factor for air carriage. It is already in service with the RAF for use with the Chinook fleet and has air carriage and sling loading clearances.

Unic Crane RAF

Weight is approximately 4 tonnes and they could be easily carried on a truck, when folded they are 4.3m long, 1.3m wide and 1.8m high. The demountable option might also provide greater access than a truck mounted version, especially if the quayside is damaged.

Unic also make a range of truck mounted cranes that offer a number of advantages over hydraulic jib cranes such as greater outreach the ability to position loads beneath ground level.

Unic cranes

They could be mid or read mounted on a suitable truck. Mounting at the mid-point provides stowage direction flexibility, either over the cab or over the load bed.

Unic truck mounted crane

Reversing such a truck into the C-17 with over cab stowage of the crane boom would allow the boom to use the ramp void, thus preserving useful load space.

Truck mounting looks like the sensible option.

Taking into account the towing frame and attachment points the length of the workboat on its trailer would be approximately 8m, leaving 12m free for a towing or other vehicle(s)

Although the C-17 cargo deck is approximately 5.5m wide this does not mean that two vehicles of 2.25m wide can be carried side by side. There has to be space to actually drive the vehicles in and for securing chains to be fitted. Vehicle width is therefore very important for the objective of maximising the available space.

Vehicle selection is influenced by any number of factors; volume and weight of stores, number of personnel, dimensions and weights, suitability for towing and crane mounting, mobility requirements and support arrangements to name but a few.

It would be preferable to use an in service vehicle from a support and training perspective but for such a niche role as this, alternatives might offer a better outcome. These alternatives may range include light commercial vehicles.

For the workboat towing role, and because it may have to be launched from a beach, a reasonably high level of mobility will be required. Because of width, overall length issues and a desire to avoid putting all the survey eggs into a single basket, I have discounted the in service MAN HX/SX Support Vehicles.

For the purpose of this exercise I am going to look at a handful of vehicles, some in service, some not.

Pinzguaers and Duros are in service and enjoy established logistic support infrastructure.

[tabs] [tab title=”Duro 1″]

Mowag Duro 1[/tab] [tab title=”Duro 2″]

Mowag Duro 2

[/tab] [tab title=”Duro 3″]

Mowag Duro 3

[/tab] [tab title=”Pinzgauer”]

Pinzgauer 1

[/tab] [/tabs]

They have both been used with box bodies and trailers and easily transported by C-130, C-17 and A400M aircraft.

Out of the two, the Duro is perhaps the better choice as especially high mobility is not required and it is still being manufactured and supported by General Dynamics.

At 2.16m wide and between 5.7m and 6.7m long for the 4 axle and 6 axle variants respectively it would fit comfortably in the single 20m C-17 lane, even with an 8m workboat trailer. The Duro might have a problem with sandy and shingle beaches and mounting the Unic crane so its selection is not certain.

The The Iveco Daily 4×4 would provide a good alternative at very low cost but again, beach mobility, towing power and suitability for crane mounting would preclude it.

[tabs] [tab title=”Iveco Daily 4×4 1″]

Iveco Dailey 4x4 1

[/tab] [tab title=”Iveco Daily 4×4 2″]

Iveco Dailey 4x4 2

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The next obvious choice is a Mercedes Benz Unimog

The Unimog is available in two major variants, the implement (or tool) carrier and the all-terrain, each having a number of models and options. The implement carrier can be fitted with numerous attachments for many different industries and the all-terrain is optimised for load carriage in difficult terrain.


For towing and launching/recovering the workboat, either would be suitable, but the all-terrain, arguably more versatile.

[tabs] [tab title=”Unimog Boat Launch and Recovery”]

Mercedes Benz Unimog 5

[/tab] [tab title”Unimog All Terrain 1″]

Mercedes Benz Unimog 4

[/tab] [tab title=”Unimog All Terrain 2″]

Unimog 1

[/tab] [tab title=”Unimog All Terrain 3″]

Unimog 2

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Adding a Unic crane would be simple and a crew cab would provide additional seating for personnel. The load bed could be used for other stores. With an overall width of 2.48m and height of 3.5m with the Unic crane it fits well inside the C-17 envelope. The long wheelbase variant is 6m long and so taken together with the workboat trailer it would be 14m long, leaving at least 6m, not accounting for the tail ramp area.

It would be subject to trials and confirmation but a single C-17 should be able to carry at least one other similarly sized vehicle if it is loaded in single file and uses the ramp area.

If side by side loading were possible then this could increase to at least three additional vehicle, more if smaller vehicles like the Iveco Daily or Duro were used.

It would be desirable to keep all vehicles the same for obvious support reasons but detailed load planning might force the issue.

Each vehicle would need air conditioning, heating and other modifications to make them suitable for use in a waterside environment in either very hot or very cold conditions.

Additional stores carried would include fuel, water and rations for at least 72 hours, spares and tools, shelter, the REMUS 100 AUV’s, survey RPAS, computing and communications equipment, diver support and medical supplies.

One of the vehicles could be used as a working environment or tentage carried as normal.

One option for shelter and a working environment would be to simply throw a 12×12 tent and some folding tables onto the back but in extremes of climate this might not create an optimal environment for the survey team to work, so a demountable ‘command post’ container could be used. Using a demountable container would allow it to be offloaded and the vehicle used for other purposes during the survey.

Because the container would not need to be continually loaded and offloaded a hydraulic system would not be needed although a hydraulic jib would be fitted to the vehicle with the survey boat and could be used. The other method of offloading the command shelter would be to use a Haacon system.

Shelters 2

Fitted to the side of the container would be a ‘lean to’ shelter that could provide additional space, or, the shelter could be extendable. There are also many options for air beam or rigid frame soft skinned shelters (tents to you and me).

Shelters 1

The basic plastic box is also subject to thinking on packing density and how they fit on pallets and in containers. A good example is the Peli ISP2 case (previously Hardigg Industries) that are available in 64 dimension options. All of them have a grid pattern on the lid and base so they interlock, which reduces case movement when stacked without strapping.

Peli ISP boxes

There are also a number of accessories available such as forklift runners for the larger cases. Already in service with deep trousered NGO’s, and the MoD, is the Zarges Euro Container, again available in size combinations that are optimised for Euro Pallets.

Communications in the local area between teams would be delivered by VHF radios and for reach-back communications, especially data transfer, a compact satellite system could be used. There are many available in service and commercially.

Putting this together, results in a three vehicle, 6 to 8 person, package; one Mercedes Benz Unimog U5023 and two Iveco Daily 4×4. The Unimog would act as a prime mover for the workboat trailer and hold the survey and dive equipment. The two Iveco’s would be used to carry the required shelter, communications, working space and life support stores to support the team.




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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June 4, 2017 11:31 am

DFID has several projects in conflict states related to port improvement.

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