Over the Shore Logistics

Port au Prince was the main port for Haiti, handling an average of 230 TEU’s per day in 2009 between the North and South Piers, about 95% of the nation’s total. The other ports of Saint marc, Petit Goave, Miragoane, Les Cayes and Jacmel were much less capable, especially for container handling.

The image below shows the harbour at Port au Prince in better times.


The north pier was used for container handling and the longer south pier, anything else, mostly break bulk cargo and personnel.

Despite the obvious utility of air operations for rapid response and time sensitive materials it was obvious that overland from the Dominican Republic and more directly over the beach or through the existing ports would have to be the main means by which the significant volume of relief supplies would be delivered.

Time-sensitive by air, volume by sea.

Not in great shape before, the port facility was particularly hard hit and in the first few days a number of US agencies conducted photo recce missions to try and determine the extent of the damage.

First Looks

On the same day as the earthquake, the US Ready Duty Amphibious Ready Group including USS Bataan , USS Carter Hall and USS Fort McHenry, were placed on 48 hours notice to move but the first assets to arrive were airborne.

First was a US Navy P-3 Orion on 12th January.


The US Coastguard the day after.


And on the 13th, a USAF OC-135 aircraft.


These initial images confirmed that the port infrastructure had suffered significant damage.

Port au Prince Haiti Before and After

The Washington gantry crane and one of the Gottwald harbour cranes were in the water and the quays either submerged or significantly weakened by liquefaction induced lateral spreading.

The North Pier (with the gantry crane) was used for container traffic and the South pier, for break bulk cargo. Although not in the port, electrical distribution equipment was also damaged or destroyed so no power would be available for port operations, lighting for example.

Port-au-Prince Haiti port damage 01

Port-au-Prince Haiti port damage 02

Port-au-Prince Haiti port damage 03

Not only was port infrastructure destroyed but there were also several hazards to navigation, reefer containers with their foam insulation, for example, presented a dangerous floating hazard.


Two vessels moored in the port, the Stella Maris and Michael J, were both damaged.

If the port was going to play any role in the relief effort, a more comprehensive survey was needed.

First on the scene to examine the harbour facilities at Port au Prince were the US Navy and US Coastguard.

Already in the area, USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke destroyer, was diverted to Haiti and she arrived on 14th  of January as the first U.S. Navy ship on-scene. The US Coastguard Cutter Fury, also arrived soon after, joining the USGC Cutter Forward that was by then providing air traffic control for the airport.

By the end of the 14th, US Coastguard vessels off Port au Prince included the Fury, Mohawk Fury and Tahoma.

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The USGC Cutter Valiant had also determined that Cape Haitien could be used for barges or ships.

On the 17th of January the USCG Cutter Oak arrived and after dropping off relief supplies at the South pier embarked on her main task of establishing safe navigation; in the next three days the Oak, her crew and local harbour pilot surveyed the port and repaired a number of buoys whilst installing a handful of news ones.

Because of the relatively unknown status of the port and distance to other suitable ports, the initial logistics concept evolved to one that was centred on a Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) model.

The UN Food Cluster estimated that a total of 140,000 tonnes of food and 160 tonnes of high energy biscuits would be needed, the latter for places where fuel for cooking was unavailable.

By Saturday the 16th of January, US forces were operating to four basic principles;

  • Command and control of supplies flowing into the logistics hub at Guantanamo Bay
  • Expanding the USNS Comfort (hospital ship) capacities in readiness for deployment
  • Port clearance at Port au Prince
  • Water and MRE’s inflows via any routes possible

On the 17th of January the USCG Cutter Oak arrived and after dropping off relief supplies at the South pier embarked on her main task of establishing safe navigation; in the next three days the Oak, her crew and local harbour pilot surveyed the port and repaired a number of buoys whilst installing a handful of news ones.

US Coast Guard Cutter Oak - Haiti

Leading the Coast Guard response was the 11 person Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit (MTSRU), a rapid response unit whose role is to restore cargo traffic to damaged ports or those suffering from some other incident. Aboard the cutter was also a command and control cell, responsible for coordinating port movements in conjunction with what was left of the Port au Prince Port Authority.

Also on the 17th January, the Dutch support ship HNLMS Pelikaan arrived and dropped off relief supplies.

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The US Naval Oceanographic Office sent a Northrop Grumman Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey (CHARTS) team from Nicaragua for five days to collect data about the port.

CHARTS is an interesting system that uses a SHOALS topography/bathymetric LiDAR, DuncanTech small format RGB camera and a CASI-1500 hyper-spectral sensor on Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop aircraft. Post processing took place less than 24 hours after it was collected which allowed the team to provide soundings, contours, digital elevation models, large scale charts, and orthorectified image mosaics to Google for inclusion in their mapping products which were also being augmented with GeoEye high resolution satellite imagery.

Poor water clarity meant the LIDAR did not produce a great deal of useable imagery the other sensors provided invaluable data and CHARTS was redeployed to other ports being used for the logistic response effort.

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Monday the 18th was a key date because it marked the arrival of a number of specialist survey capabilities.

The most up to date survey of the area was 30 years old and given the likely underwater debris as a result of the earthquake damage a new survey was the first priority. Not only would it be a possibility that uncharted wreckage could damage ships but earthquakes can change the charted depths so large cargo vessels carrying humanitarian goods running aground would be the last thing needed by the hard-pressed city inhabitants.

Although the US Navy sent the USNS Henson survey ship and a Fleet Survey Team, the first survey team ashore was the US Army 544th Engineer Dive Team 

The team was equipped with a range of survey equipment including a portable sidescan sonar and single beam echo sounder. They were initially hosted on the USNS Grasp, sister ship of the USNS Grapple, both specialist salvage vessels, but were soon set up on the pier from the 18th

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100316-N-5961C-001 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (March 16, 2010) The Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) is at anchor in the Port-au-Prince harbor as divers work on the cityÕs pier. Divers embarked aboard Grasp and divers from Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 are repairing the pier after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Port-au-Prince area Jan. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Spike Call/Released)[/tab] [tab title=”544th Engineer Diver Team January 18th Image 1″]

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The team carried out a number of bottom surveys and investigated the piers and quayside for damage. The damage to the piers was extensive, made worse by the poor original state of repair, the North pier was damaged beyond repair but and 800ft span on the south pier could be repaired in situ. 150 piles required some form of repair between 2 and 8 feet below the waterline and 66 piles required repair above the waterline.

Personnel from USNS Henson then concentrated on surveying the approaches.

Crowley Maritime, a US marine services company on contract to U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), actually chartered a small floatplane to take a survey team from Titan Salvage to Port au Prince on the 18th of January.

The Titan Salvage team concluded that it would be possible to effect a temporary docking structure using a 400ft x 100ft barge and a crawler crane. The day after, the barge 410 was on the way from Texas with an expected arrival time of February the 2nd 2010.

Salvage and Initial Supplies Arrive

The 18th also saw the arrival off Port au Prince of the barge Crimson Clover, loaded with over 100 20ft ISO containers of food. The barge was already inbound to Haiti when the earthquake struck. Because the state of the port was unknown when it arrived, it was ordered to hold.

USAID had by then also contracted with shipping companies to transport 10,700 tonnes of food, approximately 560 containers worth, to Haiti.

The next day, the Crimson Clover was allowed to dock.

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Workers unload supplies Tuesday, Jan. 19, from the Crimson Clover, a cargo vessel owned by Crimson Shippiing Co. out of Mobile. Note: Photo submitted by Crimson Shipping Co[/tab] [/tabs]

Also on the 19th, the French landing ship Francis Garnier arrived and offloaded supplies at the south Pier.

The initial survey had concluded that whilst the pier was usable to some degree, only a third was accessible and due to a combination of the poor initial state and earthquake, only one truck at a time could drive on it.

The team at the harbour would be joined by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2, the Mobile and Diving Salvage Unit 2 and Underwater Construction Team 1.

The Fleet Survey Team (FST) comprised a four person fly-away team with portable hydrographic gear initially hosted aboard the USS Underwood and then to the USNS Henson. Their main task was to conduct an anchorage survey for the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

When this task was completed they joined the team at the port to carry on with general survey tasks, including installing a number of tide gauges.

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In parallel to the survey work the USNS Grapple and members of deployed force including the Mobile and Diving Salvage Unit 2, Underwater Construction Team 1 and 544th Engineer Dive Team started work on clearing the port area and approaches of containers, wrecks and other hazards to navigation with the objective of enabling the port to open for humanitarian traffic.

Although initial briefings stated that USNS Grapple was only of limited capability, that was diametrically opposed to the actual situation. She was an ideal mobile base for the dive teams as she had a decompression chamber (used to treat a Haitian diver) and her tools and equipment allowed the teams to conduct the kinds of salvage tasks that were essential. It should also be noted that USNS Grapple stayed the longest.

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Port- Au-Prince, Haiti- Marine Corps 8th Engineer Support Battalion brings in a bulldozer to assist Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two(MDSU-2) in removing submerged container boxes. MDSU-2 is conducting salvage and repair operations in the main seaport of Port-au-Prince, Haiti as part of the humanitarian and disaster relief to Haiti, Operation Unified Response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier/Released) . MDSU-2 is conducting salvage operations in the main seaport of Port-au-Prince, Haiti as part of the humanitarian and disaster relief to Haiti, Operation Unified Response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier/Released)[/tab] [/tabs]

By the 20th, ten days after the earthquake, supplies had started to arrive overland from the Dominican Republic, the operation at the airport was getting into full swing and helicopters from various US ships were ferrying small quantities of water and medical supplies.

Dutch, French and US Coastguard vessels had offloaded some supplies, and survey and initial port rehabilitation had begun, but the bulk of the food supplies had arrived almost by luck, on the Crimson Clover barge with 100 20ft ISO containers.

Helicopters from the first large US Navy ships, the USS Carl Vinson for example arriving on the 15th, had started to move supplies but volumes were obviously limited, despite the hugely impressive effort. She had offloaded combat aircraft and embarked helicopters, 19 in total, on the way to Haiti.

USS Bataan was activated as the Ready Duty Amphibious Readiness Group, also including USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall. USS Gunston Hall also joined the Bataan ARG/MEU, arriving on 18th January. A total of 48 helicopters were by now in operation.

Moving up a Gear

Food, water, shelter materials, medical supplies, engineering plant, cooking equipment and assorted construction supplies were all waiting to come ashore.

Although responders were utilising the airport, other smaller ports, overland routes, helicopter and air drops, the main event was still going to have to be from ships to the shore in the Port au Prince area.

This would proceed in two parallel tracks;

  • Getting the marine terminal back into action
  • Using over the beach amphibious capabilities, or JLOTS.

Army members of Joint Task Force – Port Opening (JTF-PO) come from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), part of Army Materiel Command. The 832nd Army Transportation Battalion are based in Florida, within 48 hours of the earthquake, they were on their way. Their initial deployment package included stores for two weeks self-sustainment, trailers, generators, repair equipment, lighting sets, satellite communication equipment, excavators, compactors and heavy-lift fork lift trucks.

The package also included specialists in commercial contracting and ten stevedores.

All this was loaded on two Army LCU’s, large RORO vessels that can beach to load and unload. The first arrived on the 20th of January, and the second the day after.

With the arrival of engineer plant used to clear containers, underwater obstructions and clearance of obstacles in the terminal area, an opportunity existed to create RORO ramps within the harbour.

The RORO ramps, although very simple, were of critical importance as it allowed larger landing craft to access the port, three were constructed or improved.


Three landing locations were designated, Red, White and Gold Beach

Haiti LOTS

Red beach was the main terminal (a couple of locations), White Beach near the Varreoux oil terminal (established much later) and Gold Beach nestled between the two.

On the 22nd of January, Crowley Marine unloaded 56 20ft ISO containers of food and water at Ria Haina in the Dominican Republic for transfer overland to Port au Prince.

12 containers were left loaded on the Marcajama.


The Marcajama would then use her own cranes to transfer containers to a smaller vessel operated by G and G Shipping off Port au Prince. The smaller vessel would then land the containers using the newly installed RORO ramp at the harbour in Port au Prince.

On the 24th of January, the French amphibious vessel Siroco arrived off Port au Prince. The image below shows one of her landing craft using the RORO ramp.

French Landing Craft Port-au-Prince 2010-01-25

The  USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus also arrived on the 22th of January with the first of the JLOTS assets, others would follow over the next few days.

JLOTSis the US terminology for a Navy and Army combined capability to load and unload ships without the use of port facilities. JLOTS has a very wide range of equipment but key to operations in Haiti were the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) and a number of landing craft or lighters. It arrived at Haiti between the 22nd and 31st of January on the USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus, USNS PFC Dewayne T Williams, SS Cape May and SS Cornhusker State.

How did it all fit together?

The SS Cape May bought the INLS components to location and offloaded them, these comprised 3 INLS Causeway Ferries, 3 INLS Warping Tugs, 1 INLS (Roll-On-Roll-Off Discharge Facility (RRDF) and 3 NL Causeway Ferries, 2 Side Loadable Warping Tugs.

Cape May is a fascinating vessel, called a SeaBee Barge Carrier she uses a rising deck and sliding carriage arrangement to stow and launch barges, pontoons or small craft.

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1 LSV-1, 5 LCU 2000’s, 1 LCM 8 and 2 MFP Utility Boats completed the JLOTS equipment.

Once offloaded the INLS equipment would be used to unload the Lummus and Williams and transfer the containers, stores and vehicles to shore.

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INLS pontoons were also used to create causeways that allowed landing craft and other INLS pontoons to unload without beaching, White Beach shown below.

White Beach logistical compound, Haiti.

Another important piece of the JLOTS jigsaw was the USNS Cornhusker State, a dedicated crane ship. She would stand off about 3 miles from shore and transfer containers from one ship to the lighterage

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Supplementing the JLOTS equipment were USMC LCAC’s, LARC’s and other landing craft.

Whilst the JLOTS capability was being established and used, survey and salvage operations continued in and around the Port au Prince marine terminal, the USNS Henson starting a multi-beam echo sounder survey on the 23rd for example.

Six Army LCU 2000 vessels arrived on the 25th

These would prove to be invaluable as they could access the RORO ramp at the Terminal with large engineering plant or many containers.


On the 26th of January, the south pier was closed due to the discovery of additional cracks. A number of aftershocks and usage contributing to the damage. A secondary survey confirmed the South pier was repairable and the team got to work preparing the damaged piles for repair.

Repairs would need tools and materials to be shipped in and number of problems were encountered such as the only aggregates available being too large created multiple hose blockages that meant some of the repairs would be made with cement only. Tools also wore out much quicker than anticipated diving conditions were very bad, sewage and oil spills compounding an already difficult task.

Nevertheless, the team got on with it.

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Whilst this was happening, Titan Salvage and their contactors were continuing the task of clearing the north pier area of debris and containers.

However impressive the JLOTS system is, it is designed to support an embarked force, not a city of millions in dire need. The logistic jigsaw was incomplete without civilian shipping and a functioning port. Pallets and boxes started to give way to containers, especially as the Army LCU’s and civilian RORO vessels were able to access the port RORO ramps but the north pier was still out of action and the south pier undergoing repairs that would take many weeks.

Titan Salvage and Resolve Marine were on the way to Haiti on 19th of January. Resolve provided the salvage tug Resolve Pioneer and the 142ft spudded crane barge, RMG-300.

Concrete debris, vehicles, collapsed pilings and Washington and Gottwald cranes were removed in order to allow the Crowley barges to be spudded and commissioned.

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After an earlier small scale trial the 820 TEU capacity MV Marcajama container ship sailed into Port au Prince on the 28th of January and because the ship had its own cranes, was able to offload 202 containers directly onto smaller vessels equipped with bow ramps.

The smaller landing craft style ships were chartered from G&G Shipping built by St Johns Shipbuilding in Florida. Able to carry up to 26 TEU in roll on roll off configuration or if stacked, 46 TEU the Cape Express was one of those used throughout the period.

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The other commercial landing craft used were the Sea Express II and MV Cristina Express, both used extensively by USAID. Seacor Holdings repaired pipelines between the fuel terminal and harbour that allowed bulk fuel deliveries to be made. From this point on, the use of helicopters greatly decreased. The Crowley Shipper was also able to access Red Beach using an INLS pontoon.


Crowley Shipper Haiti

The Marcajama returned on the 29th of January, not with 12 containers, but 202. Each was offloaded to the lighters and then on to the marine terminal.

On the 30th, sooner than expected and whilst repairs were still under way, the south pier was re-opened for limited traffic, the same day the former Hawaii super ferries MV Alakai and MV Huaka arrived.

Work on debris and container removal continued with Titan Salvage contracting with a number of local companies to provide employment and recycling to be completed.

Haiti Port Salvage 3

Due to efforts of the port opening team and civilian contractors, the Port au Prince marine terminal was able to land 450 TEU’s per day by the 4th of February, with the INLS causeway at Gold beach being reported as 168 TEU per day.

The WIN Group (owners of the Varreux terminal) contracted with Seacor Marine to install a temporary mooring point and pipework to allow tankers to offload. Fuel was flowing by 5th of February.

The Barges Arrive

With water, telecoms and electricity at pre quake levels the next major phase in the logistics operation was the arrival of the Crowley barges at the marine terminal.

Up to this point, all stores were landed via lighterage, either on containers or on pallets. Although transferring from large vessels to landing craft and RORO vessels near offshore using integral cranes or the Cornhusker State improved matters considerably, containers still had to be ‘double touched’

What was sorely needed was a working pier that would allow large cargo ships to dock and unload directly. South pier was not going to be ready for some time, the answer was two Crowley barges, already en-route.

USTRANSCOM issued a contract with Crowley Marine for two large spudded barges (410 and Atka) to act as piers for larger ships in place of the damaged or destroyed North and South piers, in a not dissimilar manner to the FIPASS barges used in the Falkland Islands. One barge was intended for the North pier area and another the South, called APN (Autorite Portuaire Nationale) Blue and Red respectively.

With debris clear, the next task was to drive piles to ensure stability for the barges. The Associate Maritime Salvage crane barge was used to install six 3 feet by 80 feet pilings to serve as anchor points for the 410 and Atka barges.

It was at this point that an unexpected delay hit the operation. The owners of the Gottwald crane at the north pier delayed salvage for an investigation. On the 12th of February, this was resolved, taking the form of contract for its removal.

The first barge in place was APN Red (410), near the south pier, ready for traffic on the 14th of February.

Crowley Barge Haiti - APN RED

By the 18th of February, all debris had been removed from the north pier, completing the salvage operation and clearing the way for APN Blue (Atka), to be spudded into place.

Also on the 18th, British arrive!

The UK’s response was mostly carried on the RFA Largs Bay (now HMAS Choules) and Mexeflote were used to transfer the vehicles and supplies to shore in addition to acting as a general purpose transport capability in support of the wider operation.

17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, and other members of her embarked force delivered vehicles and buildings materials at Port-au-Prince.

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After completed the initial deliveries she was tasked by the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food to areas that had been cut off by the earthquake, the village of Anse-à-Veau, in Nippes province for example. The four day operation at the village delivered 275,000 ready meals, 30 tonnes of rice, six tonnes of beans, more than 200 boxes of corn soya blend, 100-plus boxes of vegetable oil, and 13 bags of salt.

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A LARGS DELIVERY FOR REMOTE COMMUNITY 08-03-2010 After a short transit by sea to the remote town of Anse a Veau (sic) RFA Largs Bay, 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps and other members of her Embarked Military Force commence the proccess of unloading some 6 tons of beans, 32 tons of rice and 275,000 packs of Meals ready to Eat (MRE). Carried out in support of the World Food Programme (WFP) this operation has enabled the WFP to get much needed food into a community cut off from the rest of Haiti. Anse a Veau has been isolated ever since a mud slide swept away the only road out of town. RFA Largs Bay, a 16,000 ton Bay Class Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) is deployed in support of DfID (Department for International Development)and the World Food Program (WFP) as the United Kingdom's contribution to the humanitarian Aid Relief effort currently giving support to the people of Haiti following Januarys Earthquakes. Please Credit LA(PHOT) Pete Smith / MOD[/tab] [tab title=”Anse-à-Veau Image 7″]

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When APN Blue was ready on the 27th of February, JLOTS was in effect, redundant.

Crowley Barge Haiti - APN BLUE

Because larger ships could dock and unloaded by mobile Manitowoc cranes directly onto trucks the 400 foot by 100 foot flat deck Crowley barges transformed operations, increasing capacity by a factor of two or three and once the second was installed, JLOTS was only used to carry military stores and vehicles.

Each barge was connected to the shore by 300 tonne capacity ramps.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, showing Crowley barges APN BLUE and APN RED

With some semblance of normality returning, the military presence started to scale down.

Both barges are still there, joined by another at the North pier.

Haiti port


Table of Contents


Air Operations and the Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport

Over the Shore Logistics

Summary and Final Thoughts


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