Requirement 2 – Port Opening and Augmentation

The requirement to open and augment a port is necessarily more complex than establishing the survey and management function.

The requirements set out below are modular, there may be no requirement for certain of the component parts, each one is a ‘mix and match’ based on needs.

Ports may be austere, well found, or all points between, and therefore, the scale of effort for each one will also be based on needs.

Explosive Ordnance Clearance and Disposal

In a disaster response or peacetime port development scenario, this requirement may well be dispensed with completely. However, in support of theatre entry in a combat oriented environment, before any work can take place to rehabilitate a port it must be made safe.

Deliberate mining and IED’s, or unexploded munitions, represent difficult challenges in a port environment requiring specialist skills and equipment.

One way of visualising the environment to be cleared in the port is;

  • Above water,
  • The waters in the port,
  • The waters surrounding the port.

As the tide falls and rises, these categories might have somewhat blurred lines, at least the first two.

Shipping must have safe access to the port via a cleared channel, and in the case of deliberate mining, this requirement may require significant resources to resolve. Some devices can be made safe in-situ, some ignored but others will need to be explosively cleared before operations can commence.

Force Protection and Life Support

The underlying assumption for this proposal is that immediate close combat has ceased, or never started in the case of a disaster response, but this does not mean there would be no need for force protection measures. Security personnel, perimeter fences, access control and monitoring equipment may be needed, scaled against the threat.

Potable water, rations, accommodation, ablutions and other facilities for maintenance of the embarked force may be replaced by using afloat facilities, but in general, these would be better provided within the port.

They may also need to be expanded for locally employed and transiting personnel.

Debris Removal

If the port has been subject to war damage or natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, it may be degraded or completely inoperable.

The decision on whether to attempt a restoration or implement other arrangements like a beach landing would be subject to the initial survey findings but in general, a degraded or damaged port is likely to provide much greater potential throughput over the medium term.

There is established good practice for post disaster zone debris removal; prioritising transport routes, segregation of hazardous waste, de-fuelling vehicles and recycling for example, but the objective of this port opening capability is necessarily focussed on the short to medium term so speed is of the essence and the proper handling of debris traded against it.

It is important to appreciate the difference between civilian maritime salvage, port construction and rehabilitation, and what would be both possible and desirable within this proposal. It is not to repair or augment a port in general terms but only to do so to a level that is desired of the operational objective.

Follow on repair and augmentation is the job of civilian agencies, governments and contractors. Requirement 1 may coordinate and manage contracts for this but it is unlikely Requirement 2 would have organic capabilities for follow on tasks.

The main focus of debris removal in most contexts would be to make it safe and push it out of the way, that’s it.

There is a blurred line between the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and debris removal tasks because UXO’s can be rendered temporarily safe by simply moving them out of the way for disposal at a later stage. They can be left in-situ and protective berms or other barriers erected around them, it would all depend on the quantity, types and surrounding environment.

Not all of this debris will be hazardous; wood, sediments, green waste, rubble and soil generally comprises the bulk of post disaster waste and can be a valuable resource for the recovery effort. Other debris will be hazardous; unexploded munitions, medical waste, toxic chemicals and human/animal bodies will all pose a risk to those in the area.

Damage to infrastructure and the types and distribution of waste materials will show different characteristics depending on how it was made; an artillery barrage on a port will produce different damage and debris than an earthquake or storm for example.

Again, context will drive the most appropriate method of debris management, but for disaster response, it will be a significant requirement.

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Examples of specific types of debris below;

Sunken ships and barges; these represent the most significant removal challenge because of their sheer size and weight. In most cases removal will beyond the scope of the proposed capability.

Libyan warship sunk by the RAF

Large ships and barges would usually be left in-situ to await disposal using specialist civilian contractors.

Containers and other Sunken or Floating Debris; at a smaller scale than ships and barges, the potential for other floating debris to cause port disruption is much greater. As seen in Haiti, Japan and New Orleans, the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a storm very often results in small boats being displaced, inter-modal containers falling into the water, fishing nets coming loose and other general debris.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 13, 2010 container floating in the port area

These can cause hazards in the port turning basins and berths and prevent trafficking of the port.

General Port Damage; Earthquakes, tsunamis and storms/hurricanes are extremely destructive to port infrastructure, port contents and surrounding area. Earthquakes are particularly destructive because they not only destroy buildings in-situ, they also damage their foundations.

Talca and Concepcion Chile 2010


Container stacks may be toppled and cranes dropped into the water, insulated and reefer containers are insulated with foam so naturally buoyant. Damage to approach roads, hard standings, concrete piles and container storage areas may also have been caused by longer term neglect and lack of maintenance.

Organic Matter; not just sewage, but trees and vegetation (green waste) that might be obstructing roads, access and storage areas. Floating organic matter may also be present in the water if the port handles timber or is near to timber processing facilities.

Human Remains; there exists a very real possibility of encountering human remains during any clearance activity and they will need to be handled with care and respect, not only because it is the decent thing to do but could be enormously counter-productive to relationships with local people and could damage security relationships. Human remains can be a source of infection so rapid disposal is an additional protection against disease in already, potentially, immune suppressed populations.

Equipment Damage Repair

In parallel with debris and waste removal the repair of existing machinery and systems such as port lighting, lifting equipment, warehouse space, traffic control and navigation equipment should be attempted.

Repair capacity will be finite although may be augmented by local resource who are likely to have excellent knowledge. It is also likely that this local resource, if available, will also be able to operate the repaired equipment.

Repairing equipment in-situ can be a significant ‘throughput multiplier’ and if nothing else, removes the need to transport replacements to site.


The need for dredging will depend on many factors but will generally include the restoration of previously dredged areas that have silted up, rather than cutting new channels into rock or sand. A port may have neglected dredging due to wars or lack of economic activity with its subsequent shipping traffic. Damage to the port may leave a part of the quayside the best option for traffic even though it does not usually have the required depth.

Dredging might imply a long term operation but specialist dredging equipment can be very time efficient and given it would be used for maintenance dredging activity it remains a valid consideration.

To determine the need for dredging two items of information are needed, current depth, and required depth. Current depth will be determined from the survey stage but required depth (and whether possible or not) will be a function of the kind of ships involved with the operation.

For a short notice operation where port capacity is to be increased, ships will need to be part of an established military/civilian organisation like the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Military Sealift Command, or available on the market at relatively short notice.

Example ship types shown below are simply to illustrate the potential span, not tp be a definitive list.


Mixed passenger and vehicles, usually on short sea routes and includes a wide variety of designs. The image below shows the Canadian MS Chi-Cheemaun, a 7,000 tonne vessel with a bow visor vehicle ramp and 650 passenger capacity. It is typical of the type and has a draught of a touch under 4m.

Ro-pax Ferry Chi-Cheemaun powered by 4x Cat C280-6 Marine Engines


This combines container holds with roll on roll off vehicle decks, an example of which was the Atlantic Conveyor owned by the Atlantic Container Line. The Atlantic Compass in the image below is a large G3 Class vessel with a design draught of 9.75m but can carry over 3,000 twenty foot containers and a thousand small vehicles.



It is unlikely that a short term port restoration mission would be hosting the large Maersk E Class type of container ships but there are many smaller feeder container ships, usually between 500 and 3,000 TEU. The image below shows the Samskip Endeavour from Damen. It can carry 804 TEU’s and has a draught of 7.33m


Freight RORO

Carrying only vehicles and containers these are a common type of vessel and the UK’s Strategic RORO vessels are a good example. The Point class are of a Flensburger CONRO 220 design of 14,200 gross tonnage with capacity of 2,650 lane metres. It has a draught of 7.6m

Point Class Strategic RORO at Mare Harbour Falkland Islands 02


Bulk fuel can be landed in ISO Tank Containers, wheeled tankers or pumped ashore using flexible pipelines so refined fuel tankers may not form a large part of the inbound shipping into a rehabilitated port but they are included here for completeness. To distinguish them from crude oil tankers they are called Product Tankers, having stainless steel or coated holds with segregated pumping arrangements. Sizes can vary but the Medium Range and coastal types are most common. The image below shows the Stena Caribbean, built by FKAB, with a gross tonnage of just under 8,600 tonnes and a draught of 6.5m


Container Barge

Coastal and oceanic barges are used extensively for container transport in conjunction with tugs. Sizes vary considerably with the larger types are ocean going with double or triple decks for roll on roll off trailers. The image below shows the Crowley El Morro that has a draught of less than 4m.



The US Military Sealift Command (MSC) RORO/Container ship is a good example of a strategic sea-lift vessel that could be used in a port rehabilitation scenario. The USNS Redcloud shown below is typical of the type with a draught of 10.4m

USNS Redcloud

Joint High Speed Vessel

The US MSC Joint High Speed Vessel is based on a high speed catamaran ferry used for short distance routes. Besides its high speed, one of the principal selling points for this type of vessel is the shallow draught at 3.8m.



Although the whole point of a landing platform type amphibious vessel is to be able to ignore ports it would still be useful if it could make use of a port. The Bay class Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) has a draught of 5.8m

RFA Lyme Bay LPD(R)

Across these different types of ships there is a wide range of draughts, between 4m and 8m are the majority of small to medium sized vessels. 8m to 12m brings in the really large vessels like the US LMSR’s and CONRO’s like the ACL G3’s but these would likely be the exception.

4m to 8m is a good working target draught to work to, which means a dredged depth of 8m to 10m.

Although the large Landing Craft Tank (LCT) type vessel has largely fallen out of favour with military forces they are still popular for coastal and island shipping, transporting vehicles, engineering plant, cargo and people. Because of their shallow draught they would be invaluable in the early stages of port rehabilitation, either inside the port boundaries or nearby.

LCU Mk10

The UK Landing Craft Utility Mk 10 is typical of a vehicular landing craft commonly used during amphibious operations. It has a draught of 1.5m

LCU Mk 10


The Mexeflote is also typical of the powered modular pontoon systems commonly used in both civilian and military applications. Unloaded they have a draught of 300mm and are only 1.5m deep.


Ramped Craft Logistics

The RLC’s Ramped Craft Logistics have now all been disposed of but they are typical of the 30m type able to carry over 90 tonnes of cargo or 3 20ft ISO containers. They have a draught of only 1.5m, the image below shows a former RLC RCL now owned by Ferguson Transport and called the Leslie Ann used to support the MoD/QinetiQ range tracking station at Hirta on St Kilda.

Leslie Ann RCL kilda-2014-236

Bahamas Express

The Bahamas Express is next up the size ladder at 60m. It was built by St John Shipbuilding and is now owned by Seacor Island Lines. It is a RORO design able to carry up to 26 TEU in RORO mode or double that if stacked and lifted off and on. Draught is 2.1m.


Damen Stan Lander

The Stan Lander is a standard design in use with many operators that can carry up to 60 vehicles with a draught of 2.1m. The image below shows an illustration of the design used in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force project Sandy Bottom.


the Frank S Besson class

In service with the US Army is the 83m General Frank S Besson Logistic Support Vessel. They can discharge 900 tonnes over the beach or 2,000 when used in a conventional configuration. They have a draught of 3.7m

RORO Landing Craft

Large landing craft can be extremely useful, even when rehabilitating a port. With a draught of between 1.5m and 4m combined with an ability to beach they should be part of equipment matrix.

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Mooring Fixtures

In very simple terms, there are three types of ship mooring configuration within a port environment, usually dictated by ship/cargo type.

One; bulk products like LNG, coal, ore and oil are carried in very large vessels that need deep water when fully loaded. So, relatively small loading platforms are connected to shore by long jetties carrying pipes or conveyor belts.

Oil Terminal Jetty

Ships are secured against breasting dolphins by lines connected to mooring dolphins, dolphins being sturdy steel and concrete constructions secured to the seabed using steel piles.


If the port area has sufficiently deep facilities these loading and unloading systems may be used adjacent to a conventional port wall, but in general, these long finger jetties are increasingly used for bulk products.

Two; A conventional wall for RORO, container, general cargo and cruise ships.

It is at this point that a quick definition of quay, jetty, wharf and pier might be appropriate, although in general use, they are often used interchangeably.

  • Quay; built on fill, parallel to the shore
  • Wharf; built on piles, parallel to the shore
  • Jetty; built on fill, extending from the shore
  • Pier; built on piles, extending from the shore

The area will have fenders to protect the terminal wall and ship and a series of bollards for securing mooring lines. Ships will be moored on their longitudinal axis parallel and in close proximity to the wall.


Cargo/passengers will be on and offloaded using cranes, side ramps and gangways.

Three; RORO ships use a variety of methods, specialist and simple. A RORO ship will be equipped with these types of ramp and can access the port using either conventional reinforced surfaces are more complex linkspans.

RORO Ramps - Copy

RORO Ramps

Ports that have a high tidal range may need arrangements that allow ships to load and unload regardless of the tide.

These different types of RORO ramps place restrictions on how and where they can be used. Conventional facilities are only accessible by quarter, slewing or stern ramps. Those ships with rear ramps cannot make use of the port unless they are moored stern in or in the ‘Med moor’ arrangement. The difference in height between the terminal wall and lowered ramp also places many restrictions on how they can be used.

A typical landing craft will be unable to use a normal terminal and thus require different arrangements.

There are two basic methods to address these issues.

The first is to use a ramp or slipway, this is the simplest and lowest cost and therefore most common for smaller and lower volume ports. They can be of earth or concrete construction and fitted with mooring bollards, fenders and connecting roadways.

Concrete RORO Ramp 2

Concrete RORO Ramp 4

These may be aligned parallel or perpendicular to the shore.

The other method is to make use of a device called a linkspan.

A linkspan is an intermediate device that evens out the different heights of the ship cargo deck/ramp and the quayside.

The mechanical support linkspan uses hydraulics to raise and lower ramp onto which the RORO ships ramp is landed. The support housing is secured to the seabed using piles. Tidal range and different ship deck heights can be compensated by raising and lowering the deck and the more complex types have multiple ramps for fast loading and unloading of vehicles and foot passengers.

Mechnical Linkspan 1

Linkspan 4

A floating linkspan falls and rises with the tide, the main structure being buoyant. Some ramp height variability can be accommodated using tank ballasting and they are usually of single deck construction, although some multi deck floating linkspans are in use. The landing area and tank creates a large water-plane resulting in good resistance to traffic loads.

They comprise two main components, the landing platform (usually incorporating the flotation tank) and connecting roadway.

Linkspan 1

Floating Linkspan 5

Floating Linkspan 6

Floating linkspans tend to be simpler than mechanical linkspans.

Mooring fixtures include fenders, bollards, ship arrestors, berthing/breasting and mooring dolphins.

Because of the large forces they have to withstand, dolphins and bollards have a necessarily substantial construction with reinforced concrete and large diameter steel piling being the norm.


Various combinations of pneumatic and rubber fixed and mobile fenders are used.



Ports are also increasingly implementing suction and other types of automatic mooring systems.

This massive construction is both an advantage and disadvantage, not so good because they take time to install, therefore deployable solutions are rather thin on the ground. On the other hand, their heavy construction does make them very resistant to damage, even deliberate explosive demolition would require some time.

The diversity of these fixtures make defining a requirement far from simple.

Temporary bollards/fenders and a repair capability would be a minimum, as would the ability to create a landing ramp to allow landing craft and some RORO vessels to access the port.

Large mechanical linkspans are beyond the scope of this requirement but an extremely useful capability would be a deployable floating linkspan.

The requirement for RORO interface comes in two parts.

Linkspan; A deployable linkspan that will enable the UK strategic RORO ships (like many other stern ramp types) to load and unload at a conventional quayside where no linkspan or ramp/slipway exists

Ramp; The ability to quickly create a ramp or slipway for use with stern ramp RORO ships and landing craft using expedient materials.

The combination of repair and build, together with a deployable linkspan forms a significant part of the overall requirement.

Cargo Handling

The Point class Strategic RORO vessels are often used for ISO containers in addition to vehicles, sometimes these ISO containers are carried on the same vehicles that will transport them to their destinations but when these vehicles are not available there is an obvious need for some means of transferring the containers from the ship and into the port area where they can either be cross-loaded onto other vehicles, stored, repacked or otherwise handled.

The majority of ISO containers arrive at port on dedicated shipping, they are taken from the container ship cells by large port cranes onto the quayside for handling by straddle carriers or directly onto other container handling vehicles or trucks. Container handling in large dedicated ports is increasingly automated and very efficient.

In the scenario envisaged by this requirement there may be a complete absence of dockside handling equipment, so bring your own is the order of the day but it would be impossible to match the container move rates of a dedicated port equipment such as straddle carriers.

The Points also have a fairly sturdy deck crane, capable of lifting 40 tonnes at 25m outreach and their container capacity is also impressive, 668 TEU’s on Mafi trailers. Many general cargo ships also have deck cranes that can offload onto a dockside without port infrastructure.

For those non RORO ships without cranes, some means of offloading containers and break bulk cargo will be required.

These would allow a rapid turn ship around, the key to throughput rates.

Container handling within the port area is another critical requirement and vital for success.

Aids to Navigation and Port Lighting

In lieu of channel markers pilot boats can be used but for medium term operations aid to navigation will need to be restored. These can include visual, audio and radio beacons on fixed points and buoys.

If the recovered port is to be used at night or during fog there will need to be some provision for lighting.

Modern ports and harbours have computer controlled lighting systems that are designed to minimise electricity use by coordinating crane and ship movements with the hour of day and season, security sensors and access control. The control circuits are often wireless and able to be reprogrammed remotely, all very clever stuff. However, the type of location envisaged for use with this proposal is unlikely to have this type of high technology solution.

With recent legal judgements any port area that is used for UK personnel will likely need to comply with relevant Health and safety legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Dock Regulations 1988 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. This might not be as onerous as imagined because any equipment on the market will be in compliance with current regulation and BS 12464-2007. Light pollution when operating at night may well impact key ships crew and pilots night vision, it is not sufficient to simply flood an area with light (see what I did there!)

For most applications, where accurate colour rendering is not needed Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium are normally used although LED technology is now making headway in the market. Lighting level requirements vary between 5 and 50 Lux depending on area, working or storage for example need differing levels.

The basic requirement will focus on repair of existing lighting but where none exists a temporary lighting solution will enable continuous operation of the port.

Cargo Storage and Forward Loading

When cargo and vehicles have been offloaded from ships it (obviously) needs to go to the point of need, the point of need usually being outside the boundary of the port. In some instances the stores vehicles will simply be driven off the ship or landing craft and directly onward to beyond the port.

A more likely requirement is for a static area in which they can be offloaded, stockpiled, organised and selectively loaded on to vehicles for transport forward. For most cargo types this can be no more than a flat free draining area with sufficient load bearing capacity for all terrain forklift trucks, telehandler’s and other material handling equipment.

An existing port will usually be well provisioned with covered warehouse space and refrigerated storage but these might not be in suitable state for use.

Again, the requirement would focus on repair of existing facilities but clearance of rubble and damaged equipment/buildings could create sufficient space for storage. Some modest refrigerated storage would be useful in some circumstances.

Locally Employed Civilians

An existing port will have existing port workers and these are a valuable resource in most scenarios. Provision for employing, organising and paying these civilians for the duration of the operation will need an administrative capability and the ability to pay either in cash or other commodities of value.

Power and Fuel Storage & Dispensing

Electrical power is the lifeblood of port operations and in the absence of grid power it will need to be generated locally. Fuel for vehicles and generators is also an obvious requirement. Portable generators, bunded fuel tanks, collapsible pipeline and dispensing equipment will all be needed to sustain port operations.

Beyond basic operation of the port and its facilities, additional fuel storage and dispensing facilities will support other operations, the fundamental reason for opening the port in the first place.

Timings, Transport and Tonnage

The areas above describe a collection of subjects that would define a capability to design and manage the construction of small ports as part of ongoing development activity and repairing and augmenting a port to support military or disaster relief operations.

For the former, timings, transport and tonnage are not critical factors but for the latter, it is important to place boundaries and be realistic about what can be achieved.


Timings form an important part of the requirement set but they should not be arbitrary and be flexible enough to accommodate the hugely different range of scenarios in which the port rehabilitation and augmentation capability might be used.

In a peace time build up before operations commence, the urgency and need for many of the requirements simply not needed.

In the Kuwaiti port augmentation prior to operations in Iraq and 2003 there was no port damage, no mines and in reality, no massive need for urgency. The task was simply to augment and existing port. Haiti was completely different, the port had been destroyed and needed repair in very short order but there were no mines or explosive ordnance that needed to be cleared. Umm Qasr in 2003 was a degraded port with a significant amount of mine clearance activity needed but although it was time important in the early stages, it wasn’t time critical.

Across the span of these three examples the timing requirement could be set from ‘yesterday’ to ‘in your own time’

There are many parts of the requirement whose width may be somewhat elastic, a single unexploded mortar bomb or a harbour and approach channel full of mines for example.


Generally speaking, the usual mode of transport will be ships but deployment by air and road, or combinations of the three may well be required.

Quality information about the current state of the port and surrounding area will be priceless and critical to success in an unplanned deployment scenario. It is here that time is of the essence and this logically dictates certain modes of transport. These modes of transport impose size and weight limitations on equipment.

Considering the most likely disaster response scenarios transport to the target port will involve multiple legs by road and air and in the interests of speed, the equipment and personnel might not always be able to utilise their own means of transport.

Practically speaking, this places a size constraint on all equipment of the 20ft intermodal container. These may also be broken down into Bicons, Tricons and Quadcons where they can be combined into a single 20 ft intermodal container size.

There may also be a requirement to utilise helicopter transport in the final leg, again, there are practical size and weight limitations imposed by the normally available and common helicopter types in service. Merlin/NH90/Mil 17 top out at around 4-5 tonne sling load and the Chinook, 10 tonnes. A decision on helicopter load constraints would see a choice being made between common medium helicopters and the less common Chinook.

Therefore, for systems meeting the EOD requirement in the initial stages of a port rehabilitation and/or augmentation operation, they must be able to be broken down into 4 tonnes loads that collectively, occupy a space no larger than a 20ft intermodal container.

All other equipment must be transportable by road

For all the other requirements, low weight and small dimensions are desirable but as a minimum, no component part shall be larger than able to be transported by road. It is also desirable that key individual items may be air transportable by A400M and C17.

Besides road and rail, the LCU Mk10 and Mexeflote may be key to initial equipment deployments and so that equipment must be considered during specification. The A400M and C-17 are also obvious considerations.


Tonnage is a misleading name for a requirement, throughput is a better description.

The main requirement for port repair and augmentation is to increase the ability of that port to handle more cargo than it either normally does or can currently. More cargo might mean specific types of cargo, explosives or vehicles for example.

Or, it might mean containers.

So although it might be tempting to set a target based on the requirement to support a brigade within a specific timeframe that would be limiting.


I have deliberately been relatively vague in defining the requirement set for Requirement 2 but to summarise, it must be able to;


Link with the survey, design and port operation consultancy capability described in Requirement 1


Clear a small to medium sized port of hazards to a point that it becomes operable, or able to be augmented.


Repair and/or augment port facilities, if required, to support defence or disaster response activities


Operate the port once cleared and repaired/augmented for the duration of the operation. Hand over to civilian agencies and authorities as required.



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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