With an initial rapid survey complete, the next logical stage for a joint port opening capability would be to repair, enable and operate the port.

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The ability to repair, augment and operate a port is obviously more complex and challenging than establishing a rapid survey and management function. But again, it is a capability that the UK certainly has to ability to mount, the building blocks are all in place.

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.

Port Repair Operation Requirements

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 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 the 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.

Examples of specific types of debris are below;

Sunken ships and barges; represent the most significant removal challenge because of their sheer size and weight. In most cases, removal will be 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.

Other damage might be localised but devastating, e.g. Beirut.

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 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 a 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 the 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 parts 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 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 tonnages with a 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 inland 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 the equipment matrix.

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 the 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 ramps 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 the 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

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 create 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 the 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 the 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 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 breakbulk 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.

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 the area, working or storage for example need differing levels. The basic requirement will focus on the 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 store’s 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 onto 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, telehandlers 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 a suitable state for use. Again, the requirement would focus on the 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.

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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 pipelines and dispensing equipment will all be needed to sustain port operations. Beyond the 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 peacetime build up before operations commence, the urgency and need for many of the requirements are 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 an 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 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;

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

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

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

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

Meeting the Port Repair and Operate Requirement

The purpose of the survey is to understand a port environment and build a series of work packages to repair and/or augment an existing port, some of that could be done in response to a natural disaster or defence requirement, and some would be done as part of the overseas development remit of DFiD using local contractors.

In the defence and HADR context, access to local contractors may not be assured, so, therefore, a defence capability to deliver on the port opening and operating requirement would be needed.

At this point, it is worth restating that this requirement is not designed to replace the services offered by civilian marine salvage and construction companies. Anything it does will be completed in a short time period and mostly temporary in character at a much more modest scale. Even a cursory glance at any images of port construction or marine salvage will reveal specialist equipment on a simply massive scale.

None of this will be replicated because this one must be limited in scope, it also must be limited in volume and weight because although most would be transported by sea, some might even be flown in as a lead element or advance party.

Organisation and Personnel

As described above, the natural organisational home for any capability to meet Requirement 2 is within the British Army’s 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, as part of 104 Logistic Support Brigade. Without getting too far into ORBAT discussion, the requirement would require significant expansion of RLC, REME and RE units that currently support this task.

In these difficult resource-constrained times I think this should be a higher priority and with shared funding from the FCO and other government departments, and greater use of Reserves and civilian contractors, it may be possible to resource without cutting too deeply into other areas.

Whether personnel are Regular, Reserve, FTRS or attached contractors would also be subject to analysis and discussion but there must be sufficient mass to maintain the readiness profile whilst conducting port augmentation operations on a BAU basis, home or away.

Explosive Ordnance Clearance and Force Protection

As per the survey capability, any explosive ordnance clearance in or around the port, above or below water, is fundamental to many scenarios, but not others. Because existing capabilities would be mobilised it sits outside of this proposal.

It is unlikely that major combat operations would be ongoing at the same time as port augmentation for theatre entry or disaster relief but there may be harassing indirect fire or simply heightened tension as a result of the existing security environment. Pilfering from the local population may also be an issue, especially for fuel and other valuable commodities. Personnel, stores, fuel, vehicles and other equipment will therefore need protection after initial clearance operations have concluded. Once a safe area has been cleared, the first task will be to create a protected compound for equipment and personnel involved with the operation. There may be existing fenced off or secure areas and these would generally be the first choice but if not, a temporary solution will be needed.

If there are empty ISO containers available they would be easy to reposition and use as barriers. It should also be noted that in some instances, especially those of a well-found port is being augmented in some way, there may be no requirement at all for protected compounds, additional workspaces or other facilities.

Timings, Transport and Tonnage

The majority of Requirement 2 capabilities will be deployed by sea and the most likely host vessel would be one of the Bay class LSD(A)’s. As described above, they are versatile and capable vessels.

To recap on their capacities; Capacity includes 1,150 lane meters for vehicles and containers, 2,000-tonne cargo capacity and accommodation for between 350 and 700 personnel depending on overload conditions. This is enough to accommodate the engineering and logistics personnel described above, and most likely, all the stores and equipment needed. Smaller landing craft or workboats can be carried on deck and lifted to the surface by the 30-tonne capacity deck cranes. Mexeflotes are sideloaded, one on either side of the hull and with a single LCU Mk10, the ship to shore transport capacity is high. This allows stores, vehicles, plant and personnel to be transferred into the target port in a relatively short time.

Because the port augmentation operation has relatively little need for aviation the extremely large flight deck could be used to carry extra stores and vehicles. A single LSD(A) is therefore likely to be enough for much of the equipment used for this task. It should be noted that in loading a Bay LSD(A) with port opening stores and vehicles, any amphibious or other operation would be denied the capacity.

Alternatives might include utilising the Strategic RORO vessels, especially if any of the really large items of equipment described below are needed. It is also likely that in all but a rapid response mission there would be one of the Echo class survey vessels and MCM capability as required. The survey, dive support and mine clearance personnel and equipment could be hosted on these vessels, there would be no need for demountable systems. As the Royal Navy evolves its MCM capability to be modular and offboard, its ability to exploit a host of shipping and aircraft increases.

Once in place, the planning team will need to balance the needs of establishing enough engineering capability onshore with the need to get the port open or ready for additional shipping. The use of lighterage such as landing craft and Mexeflotes should be kept to a minimum because it is a fundamentally inefficient means of transferring anything from a ship to shore. This might result in minimum use of such lighterage in order to offload just enough equipment to effect a repair, for example, to allow the LSD(A) to dock and unload using normal means.

Each situation will be different. Most port environments will have a small slipway or beach that will allow the LCU and Mexeflote to offload. Equipment may then need to be driven off the beach or slipway and into the port.


From the requirements section above, there are a number of activities to carry out, some more complex than others, some likely to take longer than others, some sequential, some completed in parallel, and some possibly not needed at all.

They all need stores and equipment though.

Constructions Plant and Salvage Equipment

There are two types of debris; that which exists on the land part of the port, and that which is floating or sunken. Above water, debris can be pushed, pulled or lifted out of the way and collected in-situ or removed to a central point for classification and recycling. Some of this debris may be toxic or hazardous in some other way and therefore any removal capability must reflect this. Debris could be collapsed buildings, steelwork, containers, machinery or organic matter.

Where it can be pushed out of the way the ideal solution will be to use in service bulldozers, the Cat D5 (Tractor Caterpillar D5N) and DEUCE (Tractor Med Combat Air Portable Cat 3030) for example.

Tractor Caterpillar D5N

Containers could be pushed or lifted out of the way. Because they are unlikely to be arranged neatly and aligned with the ground so that container lifter or large forklifts can use their lifting spreaders and attachments, the most practical method would be to use a crane, especially if the containers are filled.

The in-service Terex AC35 and AC55L mobile cranes would provide vertical lift for debris removal from all areas of a port ad their deployment would likely be a high priority because they can be used for many other tasks.

CRANE - Medium Crane Truck MTD 2030T Terex AC35 08
Terex AC55

Where the debris might need more effort is if it is fixed in places such as large blocks of reinforced concrete or structural components, if it needs to be moved some distance (depending on where it is) or if it needs reducing in size in situ before the clearance. If the debris is on the surface and simply needs moving a greater distance than is feasible with a crawler tractor the combination of wheeled and tracked loaders and a dump truck is an effective one, moving the debris to a designated dumping area.

In service with the British Army, via the ALC C Vehicle PFI, is the Medium Dump Truck and Self Loading Dump Truck, both based on the Iveco Trakker AD380T chassis with a Thomson Loadmaster Tipper Body that has a 16-tonne payload.

British Army Iveco Trakker

These are in service vehicles and would, therefore, carry no additional cost but if a greater payload was considered desirable or if the dumper is likely to be used in marginal terrain such as a beach or shoreline then a larger articulated dump truck might be a better choice.

There are a wide variety of manufacturers but to maintain manufacturer consistency with other in-service equipment, Volvo and Caterpillar would be on the shortlist. Although they each have many models, typically, they can carry double the payload or more when compared to the Trakker. Because they would not need to travel any great distances they would not need a dedicated low loader and could simply be driven directly off the LCU or Mexeflote and into the port area. With double the payload, a given load total could be moved in half the time or with half the personnel and half the number of vehicles in the same time.

Excavators and loaders wheeled or tracked, are used to load the dump trucks.

In service with the British Army is equipment from Volvo and JCB, with a number of items of Caterpillar protected plant purchased as UOR’s for Afghanistan. These types of wheeled and tracked loaders and excavators are versatile and useful, and already in service in quantity.

Volvo Excavators British Army

They can also be fitted with specialist ancillaries like hydraulic breakers, sweepers, shears and grapples.

Where the debris might need more effort is if it is fixed in places such as large blocks of reinforced concrete or structural components, if it needs to be moved some distance (depending on where it is) or if it needs reducing in size in-situ before the clearance.

The hydraulic attachments show above such as grapple and shears could be supplemented with specialist demolition equipment such as pulverisers, drum cutters, demolition grabs and rippers for greater efficiency. Because the debris might be timber or wooden piles excavator mounted saws would also be very useful.

If there is any floating debris such as insulated containers, logs or small craft they can be pulled out of the way using workboats and ground-based winches. The in-service CAT D5N can be equipped with a winch, useful for such applications.

Hydraulic and compressed air hand tools found as standard in Royal Engineers squadron stores can also be used to facilitate debris removal.

The safe demolition and removal of obstacles may also be facilitated by explosive cutting charges. Most of the in-service equipment is supplied by Chemring Energetics including SABREX linear cutting charge for example. General-purpose explosives like PE8 might also find some use in demolition and debris removal.


Except for the specialist hydraulic attachments, all this equipment is in service.

With the wide range of plant and machinery already available in service with the Royal Engineers there should be no obstacles or debris in the port that cannot be quickly cleared, at least on land. Removal of underwater debris and wreckage presents a more difficult problem because of the environment and potential size of debris and wreckage. It will also require the purchase and maintenance of certain specialist items of equipment as is the first element of Requirement 2 that might need additional equipment investment.

There has to be a recognition of the limits of capability embodied in Requirement 2, it is not envisaged that it will replace large-scale commercial salvage organisations that can move sunken supertankers but simply implement a capability that can remove small to medium-sized underwater debris and wreckage, simply moving it out of the way is the order of the day.

Underwater salvage is a specialist task and whilst the US Navy has a handful of salvage vessels it is not proposed that the UK follows suit. Instead, a small amount of specialist equipment could be used to push or pull small wrecks and other large debris out of the way to enable port access. Distances are likely to be small and vertical lift is not needed. The Cat D5N has a winch but where this is not suitable, a dedicated chain puller or static winch may be used. They can also be deployed in parallel to increase power.

Chain Puller

Whether using a chain puller or ground winch, both will need a range of anchoring equipment, chains and shackles. The work platforms and divers will be used to install lifting points on the wreckage or debris and cranes and wheeled loaders used for handling the chains and other equipment onshore, the 300-tonne chain puller shown below, from TGS in the Netherlands, weighs 12 tonnes and can pull at approximately 2m per minute. Both the chain puller and its hydraulic power pack and ancillaries can be carried in a single ISO container. The video below also shows chain pullers in action but to be clear, Requirement 2 will only have two chain pullers and the size of the wreckage is dictated by the ability of the two.

Concrete and tarmac repair products are widely available and can be used for small areas but where large areas need repair a graded fill material will be needed. If rubble is available and has been converted to graded granular fill material it can be recycled and reused for this purpose. Dredged sand can be recycled although if settling lagoons are used it might not be in a suitable form for several days. Otherwise, local purchases may be the only practical alternative.

The in-service rollers and vibratory compactors such as the snappily titled compact Roller Motorised Smooth Drum SPT Tandem Vib DSL Wacker RD27-100 or Compactor Plate Pedal Remote Control DSL Wacker DPU7060SC would form standard components of any Royal Engineers port repair squadron.

The in-service Class 30 or 70 Trackway may also be used but alternative products such as fibreglass and composite road mats may be more applicable as the underlying surface is still load-bearing and are now widely available, very easy to use, lightweight and have a low scrap value meaning they are less likely to be stolen.

Rolatrac i-TracMatrax HD and Oxford Plastics Roadplate are representative products.

Aggregate and infill materials would be transported by the Iveco Medium Dump Trucks described above although if available, smaller Terex TA3, or Dumper Ultra Light, might also be used for smaller loads. Excavator mounted hydraulic compacter plates could be used if the roller and vibratory compactors were not available. It is a swings and roundabouts decision, less to deploy but when the excavator is compacting it is not excavating.

The ubiquitous JCB 4CX or tractor Wheeled Light would no doubt find a role in general repair work. Bomb cratering or damage as a result of earthquakes will produce holes and cracks that need filling (stop giggling at the back!). In order to operate forklift trucks, reach stackers and container handlers, port roads and storage areas must be ‘relatively’ flat.

Rubble Processing, Sheet Piling and Concrete Works

Over and above general engineering plant and equipment, a number of tasks within Requirement 2 would be made significantly faster using specialist equipment, equipment that is not currently in service.

If there is significant rubble volume in the port, it will eventually need to be processed, but if the construction tasks need graded fill material then this rubble becomes a valuable commodity.

Processing concrete, rock and masonry rubble into graded fill avoid having to ship it in or purchase locally.

For small gap filling requirements rubble can be processed in-situ using a combination of bucket crushers and rotating sorters. These are attachments for existing excavators widely available from a number of manufacturers such VTN Europe and MB Crusher. By processing in-situ stockpiling and transport is reduced.

If larger quantities are needed then the excavator mounted devices will not have the capacity so a dedicated unit might be more appropriate. Concrete recycling equipment can vary in size from mini-units designed for domestic applications that fit through a doorway right up to large semi-permanent units with high throughput. A typical medium-sized unit is the RM 70GO! from Rubblemaster that can process up to 120 tonnes per hour with variable output sizes.

Quaysides may need temporary repair or reinforcement, piles and mooring fixtures can also be damaged to an extent that stops the port from being of use. Any repairs need only be ‘good enough for the duration of the operation and so temporary measures are perfectly good enough. Decks are often mounted on concrete, steel or timber piles and if these are damaged or degraded their ability to withstand berthing forces and mechanical handling equipment is greatly compromised.

Traditional pile repair techniques involved dewatering the surrounding area but new methods have long since replaced those and the most common method now used involves creating a temporary jacket using fibreglass or fabric forms and filling the cavity with marine repair epoxy, after removing friable or rotten material. There are a number of British, European and International standards that can be referenced and modern systems tend to comply with the provisions of all of them.

Marine Pile Repair

Most of the commercial systems are designed for permanent repair and require all friable, corroded or rotten materials removed using high-pressure water or physical abrasion before applying the jacket but given the time constraints involved with Requirement 2 tasks, this may not always be possible.

Traditional marine cement can take many days to achieve full cure strength, again, not likely suited to the Requirement 2 mission.

Structural steel pile repair systems are available but they require considerable installation time, probably more than traditional concrete systems.

Pilejax from the Australian company Joinlox is a relatively new system that combines ease of installation with low cost. Available in a number of lengths and diameters it uses an innovative locking mechanism and seals combined with flat-pack FRP sheet forms. It is, therefore, space-efficient and lightweight, making it attractive for this requirement. Other systems are available.

A stock of Pilejax could be held in a single container, together with a stock of marine epoxy repair compound and appropriate hoses, pump and mixing equipment such as those from Putzmeister.

Putzmeister Marine Grout Pump

Temporary repairs to deck piers can also be made with filled ISO containers, gabions such as Defencell and Hesco, shoring with any available steel girders that could be cut or salvaged from other areas or using temporary bridge supports as long as the bottom could support the load. Combinations of these methods could also be used, Hesco filled with rubble and marine grout as temporary foundations for bridge supports or prop systems for example.

Pile supported decks are a challenge because the entire weight of the deck, any equipment or cargo on that deck and berthing forces are transmitted through the piles. This generally makes them large and sturdy structures that are both difficult to repair or reinforce and equally difficult to create any sort of temporary workaround where time is of the essence.

Non-pile supported piers and other port structures use sheet piling. The sheet piles are driven into the ground, secured using tiebacks and soldier beams and then backfilled.

Sheet Piling

The sheet piles are then capped, usually using concrete.


Because they are so strong and bulky, any damage is likely to be very difficult to repair although sheet piling will remain a valuable capability within any port repair context. For smaller areas of damage simply installing additional sheet piles in front of the damage and backfilling without tie rods may provide sufficient robustness for the short term. Backfill material could be processed rubble.

A more recent alternative is open cell bulkhead construction that uses sheet piles but arranges them in multiple U shapes to eliminate tiebacks and anchors. A Y shaped pile connector is used to form the U shape.

Open Cell Bulkhead 3

This technique may also prove to be useful for smaller installations, extensions and repairs.

Open Cell Bulkhead 1

Z and U shaped sheet piling continues to evolve but they are poor at dealing with vertical loads and so combination or high modulus walls incorporate sheet piling reinforced with tubular or box section piles. Concrete diaphragm walls are low maintenance and long life for deep draughts but require extensive construction excavation using equipment such as Hydrofaise cutters.

When driving sheet piles from the land side, the surface has to have sufficient bearing strength to support the pile driving equipment, this may not be present in the case of damaged areas and so driving from the floating platform may be the only choice available. This may require the use of a driving alignment frame, especially for crane supported devices.

Vibratory pile drivers liquefy the soil which allows the pile to be easily driven into the ground. They also reduce any transmitted vibration to neighbouring vulnerable structures, particularly where damage exists. For small repairs, a sheet piling attachment can be used with existing excavators although a dedicated leader rig would yield faster results at the expense of higher cost and transportability requirements.

Typical of the dedicated hydraulic leader rig is the RG16T from RTG Rammtechnik GmbH. It has a telescopic leader and variable vibration for increased versatility and can install pairs of sheet piles up to 15m long. Setup times are usually less than 30 minutes once unloaded and their work rate is impressive. Auger attachments can be used to pre-loosen very hard soils.

RG16T Pile Driver

A typical excavator mounted vibratory pile driver is the Movax Modular Side Grip attachment that can install piles up to 12m in length.

Corrosion free PVC and composite sheet piles are used for smaller height walls or where soil conditions allow.

As the Haiti earthquake showed, a simple ramp can allow the large landing craft and ships with ramps to access the port which provided a significant uplift in throughput from the smaller military-style landing craft. Many ports will already have a number of these access ramps for boat launch and RORO ships but where they do not or have been damaged, construction will be needed.

Traditional construction techniques usually require a watertight cofferdam to be built with sheet piling, sandbags or demountable barriers and dewatered. When the area has been dewatered concrete formwork and reinforcing are installed and infilled with poured concrete. When the concrete has cured the barriers are removed. This makes for a sturdy installation but is time-consuming, a luxury Requirement 2 does not have.

Boat Ramp Construction

Purely in the interests of speed, alternative methods will be required.

Harbour walls or quaysides may be too high for a ramp and will therefore require some form of demolition before installing the ramp. This may seem counter-intuitive but if the port environment does not have a ramp, its ability to accommodate a variety of smaller craft will be limited.

The long reach excavator may prove invaluable in this task.

Long Reach Excavator 05

Building the ramp gradient could involve a number of techniques, used together or alone. Pipe fascine bundles, Class 30 or 70 trackway and Hesco or Defencecell gabions are in service or in the defence supply chain and well suited to this type of temporary construction.

Marine grout is a special type of cement that is resistant to washout and able to cure in direct contact with water. Mixed with sand or small aggregate it can be pumped into fabric bags or multi-cell mattresses and this type of installation is often used for scour protection and bank erosion control.


Because the fabric and concrete conform to the underwater and surface undulations and obstructions it would make an excellent ‘concrete carpet’ for landing craft and ships.

The problems with using cement and concrete, as detailed in the pile repair section, is that it needs specialist mixing and pumping equipment, storage/transport of cement and sand/aggregates and time to achieve the required hardness after fill. Quick curing marine grouts are available but might not be suitable for this application and are still unable to achieve the required hardness in a reasonable time.

Pre-cast segmented concrete mattresses are widely used in the subsea installation sector for pipeline and scour protection and subsea ROV platforms. They use individual cast concrete blocks connected with polypropylene rope.

Concrete Mattress 1

The only downside to these subsea concrete mattress products is their heftiness and weight, they are perhaps too heavy-duty for the application. Lighter alternatives are available that are more commonly used in inshore erosion control such as Flexamat.

The innovative Concrete Canvas could also be used. Concrete Canvas is a relatively new British product that is a concrete impregnated fabric on rolls of various lengths and widths. It is unfurled, secured using staples where required and hydrated. It can be hydrated by spraying with fresh or saltwater or simply immersed. After hydration, it achieves 80% strength in less than 24 hours. Although Concrete Canvas has many excellent properties it is relatively thin and so may not be durable enough for repeated trafficking, multiple layers may be needed but it is very easy to install so this would not be a significant barrier to use.

Finally, there are a couple of geotextile products that would be worthy of investigation for temporary ramp construction; Tencate Geotube and Tele Textiles Teletube.

Geotubes are flexible synthetic tubular containers that are hydraulically filled with sand and water, under pressure. The sand is usually dredged from the surrounding area. Residual internal pressure forces the water out through the material leaving what is in effect, a gigantic sandbag. They have been used for a wide range of marine construction and shoreline protection projects.

Most of the equipment in this section is not in service, so would need purchasing and a logistic support pipeline established.

Diver Support and Work Platforms

Operating some of the equipment above will need divers to work underwater and other personnel to work on the water. Existing RE/RLC dive equipment is perfectly suited for the port environment but there might be some equipment available to enhance safety or improve efficiency.

Some of the lead diver support elements may have been deployed during the survey task and in the same manner, underwater clearance needs to proceed in a range of temperatures and in the presence of pollutants.

The Royal Navy and British Army have considerable diving expertise and capabilities so Requirement 2 may not need much in the way of new equipment, the tasks will be completed at relatively shallow depth and therefore, do not require saturation diving techniques, most will be conducted using surface supplied equipment.

The subsurface environment is complex and especially dangerous in ports so the full range of rescue and standby equipment will be needed.

In many scenarios, the divers can use facilities onboard RN vessels that will be in the area but in others, the only general-purpose may be available and so a deployable 10 and 20 foot containerised system would be optimal, such that it can be demounted from a transport vehicle, and used at the quayside or from a work platform. These are available from a number of suppliers such as Divex and SMP and contain equipment storage, compressors, control equipment and other machinery. 10-foot dive control and machinery containers would be best suited as they can be easily lifted onto floating work platforms with the larger 20ft container used for workshops and diver decompression chambers. These containers should also contain hot water systems for use in cold water environments.

Underwater cutting equipment and power tools are in service including Broco cutting torches and Stanley underwater hydraulic diamond chainsaws for example. These should be augmented with additional specialist equipment such as steel wire rope and rebar cutters.

A diver ‘cage’ would be a useful addition to the equipment pack, used from a wheeled excavator or mobile crane as described above.

Divers Access

In addition to portable ladders and other access equipment, the divers will need a floating work platform. This platform can also be used for many other tasks.

As part of the survey team equipment a small workboat will be available to the following on dive team but more is always useful. Traditionally this would be a Combat Support Boat and if they are available, would be ideal. There are other options available that could be used for other tasks in addition to diver support.

The easiest way to provide a floating temporary work platform in relatively sheltered water is to use one of the many modular pontoons available in the commercial market, steel or plastic.

Modular Docking Cube Components

HDPE modular pontoons are cheap, easy to deploy, adaptable, maintenance-free and available from many suppliers such as Airfloat, EZ Dock, Pontoon Works, Versadock and Aqua Dock, name but a few.

Modular Docking Cube Transport and Deployment
Modular Docking Cube Applications 2

They can be fitted with a range of accessories such as cleats, rails, deck covers, utility connectors and connecting modules. Surprisingly robust, when assembled they can be used as work platforms, temporary bridges, jetties, drive-on boat docks and docking interfaces.

Work Boats and Pontoons

To support heavy plant a more robust solution than the plastic pontoon would be needed, deeper and with stronger connecting mechanisms. The principle of modular pontoons is the same but steel ISO container-sized units are obviously much stronger and able to support greater loads.

The first option would be to simply obtain dunnage and spud jacks for the existing Mexeflote pontoon but this might create a situation where these always in high demand units are required elsewhere and so a dedicated solution is needed.

Again, there are many commercial off the shelf solutions and in specifying a modular steel pontoon solution for use as a strong work platform for debris removal and minor salvage tasks there is a recognition that their inherent versatility can be used for other tasks in Requirement 2.

Modular steel pontoons are incredibly versatile, they can be used as work platforms, dredgers, ferries, jetties, rafts, causeways and linkspans.

Damen Modular Pontoon

Manufacturers include Volker Brooks, Janson Bridging, Damen, Hann Ocean, Robishaw Engineering, Combifloat, Modular Pontoon Systems, Intermarine, Innovo, Baars, Poseidon Barge and Ravenstein.

All similar, generally ISO container-sized steel boxes with a range of accessories such as lifting spuds, rails, decking, bollards, fairleads, ramps and connectors. They are transported to the work area, lifted into the water using cranes and connected together using various locking mechanisms, pins and other connectors. They can be towed, pushed or propelled using Thrustmaster type units, as found on the Mexeflote, the OD15N in particular.

Spud legs are used to stabilise the platform and resist turning and pushing forces when using excavators and other equipment. No more than a dozen should be needed as a work platform for the debris and wreckage removal task, complete with a range of ramps, bollards and spud leg systems.

Moving ships in turning basins and mooring areas requires the use of tugs. some ships are equipped with bow thrusters and other propulsion systems that allow precise positioning without the use of tugs but this would cut down on potential shipping that can use the port. Yet again, getting any tugs that are already part of the ports facilities working is the easiest option but if none exist, or those that exist are beyond practical repair, a deployable tug pair will be needed.

The RLC Army workboats can be used as tugs but not perhaps for the larger ships.

Conventional harbour tugs are powerful but heavy, usually in excess of 300 tonnes, even for a small design like the Damen ASD Tug 2009, used by Serco and the MoD. The reason the weight is important is that it has to be able to be lifted from an LSD(A) deck, either that or transported inside or on a FLOFLO or heavy lift ship. It is a trade-off, a large bollard pull rating allows fewer tugs to be used (within sensible limits) but means big and heavy vessels and resultant poor deployability.


Within the confines of a port and its approach lanes, there are normally two methods of achieving the desired depth, depending on soil conditions, both usually mounted on a pontoon of some sort.

Trailing arm cutter suction dredgers use a rotary cutting head that is lowered into the soil and as it cuts, the debris is removed to a settling lagoon or barge using a suction pump. Backhoe dredgers employ a large hydraulic excavator and standard bucket with the spoils loaded onto a barge for removal.

With a long reach excavator, some dredging might also be carried out from land. Backhoe dredgers can use integral excavators or a land-based excavator driven on for the duration of the dredging activity. They are most suitable for unconsolidated soils containing pebbles, clay and sand, and friable or crumbly rock.

Both types use a pontoon that employs spud legs in order to counter the dredging forces, especially for excavators.

It would make logistical sense to maximise the use of the modular pontoon work platform described above. This could be augmented with spud leg modules (all of the proposed pontoons can be fitted with spud modules) but the Baars Confloat range can make use of a travelling spud leg carrier which increases work rate significantly as it reduces the number of spud movements for a given dredged area.

Detailed information on suction cutter dredgers and backhoe dredgers can be found here

For these requirement tasks, the most likely requirement is to dredge to an already established depth after siltation from neglect. However, some dredging may be required to expand the depth of an existing port and so equipment should be available to dredge to a depth of 12-15m. There are many manufactures of modular pontoon cutter suction dredging pontoon but a typical example is the IHC Beaver 50. It can dredge to a depth of 14m and can also be fitted with a walking spud carriage system. The system is containerised for transport and comes with a range of options for pumping equipment, hoses and different types of cutting heads.

Excavators can also be fitted with dredging pumps.

To cover both options, the long reach excavator and work platform pontoon could be combined with a dedicated modular cutter suction system. A long reach excavator is no different to any other, it simply has a longer articulated arm, and thus, it is not especially specialised.

Long Reach Excavator 04

A small number could be added to the existing C Vehicle contract, using the same Volvo EC210 chassis that are in service.

Volvo EC210 Long Reach Excavator working in a port

The reason long reach equipment is so useful in port clearance operations is because they can be used from the quayside or a floating work platform and achieve useful depths for the manipulation or reduction of underwater debris and wreckage using their bucket, as a lifting device, or with specialist equipment like demolition shears and hammers.

Long Reach Excavator 06

The standard excavator bucket and chain hook should be sufficient for most simple removal tasks but for extra speed, a set of specialist underwater hydraulic shears, grabs, drum cutters and pulverisers would be useful.

Equipment Repair and Artisan Trades

It may be quicker to repair harbour machinery such as cranes, container handlers, forklift trucks and generators than land it from expeditionary shipping, and some equipment such as large container cranes would not be practical to deploy in any case, so repair is the only short term option.

It would be impractical to carry spares in the Requirement 2 stores, ready to go, for every different manufacturer of forklift trucks or harbour cranes but call-off contracts and online documentation and manuals would be feasible for the major equipment manufacturers. The initial survey and standing port data will also provide insight into equipment held in the port.

The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, together with specialist elements from the Royal Logistic Corps and Royal Engineers will deliver the equipment repair task. It might also be assumed that locally employed civilians would play a key role and the ability to pay the local personnel and suppliers should be incorporated into the port operations and management capability.

The deployed equipment will also need maintenance and first-line repair tasks and naturally, this will also be carried out by the engineering team.

The Deployable Engineer Workshop, supplied by G3 Systems, supports Royal Engineer artisan trades such as carpenters, fabricators, welders, fitter machinist’s, builders, structural finishers, electricians, utility engineers and petroleum engineers. All the containers and shelters are supplied by Ably Shelters (Denholm Defence), the RACU and EXTENDA being specific examples.

Deployable Engineer Workshop 01

Other deployable shelters include Deployable Machine Shops and the Fitter Section in a Box (FIASB). Not all RE artisan trades would need to be supported, and there may be specific requirements for the REME trades, especially given the likely vehicles and engineering plant used, and so a hybrid of DEW/FIASB/DEW would need to be developed, together with appropriate raw materials, consumables and spares holdings.

Mooring Fixtures

There are a number of different types of mooring bollards with selection depending upon factors such as mooring angles, number of lines and required load strength.

Mooring Bollards

Installation generally uses cast in or through deck bolts and resin anchors are used for retrofit applications. For Requirement 2, holding a small number of cast mooring bollards and resin anchors would be available, and installed as necessary.

Aids to Navigation

Aids to navigation such as marker buoys may have drifted out of position or not be present. With a small stock of marker buoys and navigation lights, it should not be a difficult task to install or reinstate existing devices.

Navigation Buoys

Included in the new fleet was a pair of Multi-Cat 2510’s equipped for buoy/mooring handling and trials support. The SD Navigator is the name of the mooring and buoy handing Multi-Cat 2510, and is an ideal workboat for Requirement 2, equipped for buoy and mooring maintenance with winches and a 9 tonne at 7m outreach crane.

SD Navigator, Serco, off the coast of Isle of Portland, Dorset

A Damen Multicat 2510 would be an ideal general workboat but because they are wide (for stability) they are too wide for easy road transportation or loading inside the LSD(A) well dock. If the existing Army Workboats could be fitted with a hydraulic jib and maintain their stability this would be the obvious solution but if not, a dedicated vessel for buoy replacement might be needed. In some conditions, one of the LSD(A)’s could lift buoys into place using their deck crane but closer inshore this might be a problem.

Again, taking the modular pontoon approach allows the creation of multiple vessel types. Simply carrying a couple of extra pontoons and adding a wheelhouse and deck crane would provide the necessary stability and reach for buoy handling. Using two modules wide creates the 1205 and three wide, 1908.

Damen Modular Workboat 1
Damen Modular Workboat 1
Damen Modular Workboat 2

It would seem an obvious equipment choice, expanding on the work platform used for port dredging and work platforms.

With a suitable service vessel, a stock of buoys, sinkers, swivels, shackles and chains should fit into one or two ISO containers. Together with a stock of navigation lights, again from Hydrosphere, this will allow the reinstatement of aids to navigation, at least to a minimum level.

Power, Lighting and Shelters

Existing port buildings such as warehousing and refrigerated warehousing may be well found, non-existent or completely destroyed so in order to provide some shelter for stores and materials a temporary shelter of the sort would be a useful addition to Requirement 2.

The MoD has a well-established relationship with Rubb UK, fabric building specialists. Rubb produces a number of different products for port warehousing and their specialist military range, the EFASS (Expeditionary Forces Aircraft Shelter System). EFASS can be used for storage, as a hangar for aircraft or temperature-controlled maintenance space. It is available in 11.1m, 20.4m and 25 m spans with typical lengths up to 100m.

Warehouses (25m x 100m)

Power, heating and cooling options are available, as are a range of doors, double skin fabrics and other ancillaries. They are quick to erect, with a 25m x 100m shelter built in 13 days, and not overly expensive.

Daytime operations are a given but if ships are to use the facility in the hours of darkness, lighting will be required in any area that is being used. The port will more likely have these facilities in place so may well have been addressed in the repair task. If those repairs need spare parts that are not available a quick portable solution will be needed.

Power consumption is an important factor for a deployable solution because every lux will need powering from self-contained generators, each needing fuel that must be landed or taken from existing finite supplies. Although low energy lighting has a higher capital cost the running cost and operational advantages would point to a low energy solution such as available from Holophane, CU Phosco and Prismalence. As an example, a 70w Prismalence Ceramic Discharge Metal Halide unit outputs the same light as a 1000w Halogen unit.

Portable lighting towers are available through the C Vehicle contract but they are mostly designed for site use and may not be high enough although the C Vehicle PFI would be an ideal commercial provision solution.

Combining a low energy lighting solution like the Prismalence Stella with a self-contained semi-mobile lighting tower such as the 11m Maxi Tower or 15m TI15 from Towerlight would provide good coverage at low energy use. Deploying them around the port area should be a simple task for any of the wheeled loaders and wheeled tractors described above.

Lighting Tower

If the common 11-15m solutions do not elevate the lights to sufficient height to clear container stacks and other obstructions without needing many units a greater height might be needed, this means moving away from conventional solutions and to those that use elevating lattice towers like those currently in use in Afghanistan for the Base-ISTAR observation towers from Floatograph and Will Burt.

A quick check using a light meter will confirm the correct levels, obviously, some leeway and an application of common sense is needed. Floodlighting for work and storage areas will need to be deployed in addition to harbour navigation lamps.

RORO Linkspan and Buffer Pontoon

As described above, a linkspan for use with large stern ramp RORO ships can allow them to unload in ports without RORO facilities, of which there are many.

Linkspan 1

The arrival of the two buffer pontoons in Haiti created a step-change in cargo offload rates, making the JLOTS capability more or less redundant, they are still there today. FIPASS at Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands is another example, again, still there.

A buffer pontoon extends the wharf into deeper water and allows the spanning of damaged sections.

Buffer Pontoon 2

The solution to both requirements will have a number of common features; a large platform onto which a RORO ships ramp can be landed that is large and sturdy enough for MLC 120 trailer and tractor loads to turn, some means of securing the platform in place and an access ramp that can accommodate the height differential between the platform and quayside. A buffer pontoon will also require mooring fixtures and space for cranes to enable it to offload non-RORO vessels.

The platform can be either a modular pontoon or single piece unpowered barge, the former described above and the latter, commonly used in the offshore energy, heavy lift and salvage industries. There are pros and cons for either approach. A single piece barge will be quicker to install than a modular pontoon but pose more difficulties in transportation.

When the pontoon or barge moored is placed in close proximity to the quayside it will need securing. In locations where there is seabed scour protection close in to the quayside, a spud leg might not be suitable so it will require cleats for attaching mooring lines.

In some locations there will be a height differential between the modular platform and quayside or pier deck. Without some form of ramp or roadway, vehicles will not be able to be offloaded so the solution must also have some form of the adjustable ramp that can also accommodate the same MLC 120 loads as the landing platform. It will also require an interface for both the platform and quayside that prevents slippage and adjusts for differing angles as the tide changes.

This connecting ramp could be constructed using BR90 or Logistic Support Bridge components but this would remove from use a relatively expensive and uncommon item of equipment from the wider campaign so a dedicated ramp is preferable. There will be a number of cranes available within the port environment so as long as it fits within the weight and reach envelope of a Terex AC55 it should be quick and easy to lift into place.

Linkspan 3

The connecting pieces for pontoon and quayside may require some bespoke design and fabrication.

Buffer Pontoon 1
Linkspan 5
Buffer Pontoon 4

Investing in an amount of larger modular pontoons, spud legs and connecting ramps would provide a significant uplift to operations throughput for RORO vessels in ports without existing RORO facilities.

Materials Handling

Forklift trucks, reach stackers, MAFI trailers/tractors, telehandlers, container mobilisers, straddle carriers, rubber tire gantry cranes and harbour cranes make up the working machinery of most ports. A port will also have and may need more, storage facilities that need protection from the weather and even refrigerated storage.

Already in service are JCB Telehandlers, various forklift trucks, DROP/EPLS trucks, Kalmar Rough Terrain Container Handlers, cranes and other mobile plant that could easily be used for moving pallets and containers around a port.

LIFT TRUCK - Kalmar RT 240 RTCH 10

Where the in-service equipment is less suited is to offloading ships, especially the larger container and general cargo ships. Some of these ships have their own cranes to lift cargo from their holds and onto the quayside or awaiting vehicles. Most civilian container ships, even the smaller feeder ships, do not have their own cranes and this, therefore, leaves a potential capability gap should neither the ship nor port have offloading equipment in good working order.

Fixed cranes are generally less complex but in order to access the full width or length of a ship hold they need long reach and if the crane is going to be used in the construction of the shore linking causeway (as I intend to propose) before being used to offload ships mobility is a key requirement

Any crane must be able to span the full width of expected ship types but in this scenario, heavy lift capacity is not needed. If it is accepted that heavy vehicles will drive off a RORO ship the most common item is in the region of 40 tonnes and usually it would be much less.

When selecting cranes there are many trade-offs and specification touchpoints so I am going to show three examples, one from each category. It must be said, however, that these are products available from a number of manufacturers so readily available.

Lattice or telescopic boom crawler cranes are common in the heavy lift and construction sector, they combine a large tracked chassis with an equally large counterweight and long boom. A typical example is the Link Belt TCC-750, with a tracked carriage it can traverse difficult terrain and the 4 part boom with lattice extension allows it to lift out to a maximum reach of over 50m.

Link Belt TCC 750

Other crawler cranes use multi-section lattice booms rather than telescoping types. This is a general-purpose heavy lift crane and more transportable than might be imagined because they are designed for frequent road carriage to and from work sites.

The mobile harbour crane is a more specialised design than the crawler crane that whilst not as deployable has a number of design features that allow it to access the top container stack on container vessels or the bottom of bulk carrier holds. Automatic spreader assemblies allow the rapid attachment and lifting of ISO containers so containerised cargo offload rates are potentially much higher than with general-purpose crawler cranes. At the lower end of the size, scale is the Liebherr LHM 180. At 20m outreach, it can lift containers weighing between 25-32 tonnes depending on whether a semi or fully automatic spreader is used. With a turnover of up to 35 cycles per hour, total throughput for an 18-hour operating window would be in excess of 630 containers or over 15,000 tonnes if those containers contained 25 tonnes of material. Actual throughput would of course be lower depending upon many factors such as truck capacity, operator skill, light availability, weather conditions, operator rest periods and ship configuration etc., but this is still an impressive piece of equipment, even at half the theoretical throughput. Move up the model list and the larger LHM 280 can still do the same number of cycles but from much larger container vessels (between Handymax and Panamax) and two 20ft containers (TEU) at a time, in effect, doubling the maximum throughput.

Liebherr LHM 180

The major problem with these large mobile harbour cranes is their deployability, they need a reasonably heavy lift crane to offload onto the quayside and assembly time is not short.

The final type of crane to consider is technically speaking, not a crane, as it does not use a winch cable. Materials handlers are used to access cargo that does not extend above cargo ship holds, or if it does, not by much. They are generally used for bulk cargo such as metal scrap, timber and minerals but can be fitted with an automatic container spreader. Although they cannot access the top stacks of traditional container vessels or lift heavy 40ft containers, their direct action allows a very higher number of cycles to be achieved. The Mantsinen 200 is typical of the type and can offload 45 20ft ISO containers (TEU) per hour, or over 800 TEU per 18 hour period.

Mantsinen 200 1

It would certainly be a challenge to get either the Liebherr or Mantsinen into a damaged port and would take several days to build, so the crawler crane option might be a better balance of capability and time into service.

If we can achieve high ship offload rates using specialist equipment like a harbour crane or RORO linkspan there is potential for movement within the port and onward to create a bottleneck that undoes the effort expended on the quayside. Cargo needs to get away from the port and to the point of use as fast as possible (accepting some stockpiling and palletisation may be a requirement).

For RORO cargo the main requirement is space for turning and parking, one of the main engineer and construction tasks would be to make sure suitable space is available. For pallets and containers, the in-service equipment should generally be sufficient. The Kalmar Rough Terrain Container Handler (RTCH) is an impressive piece of equipment but with less than 20 in service relatively uncommon.

For use where the all-terrain features are not required, the MoD has a number of Hyster container handlers

Although they are not necessarily classed as deployable equipment an extra small purchase for use in this role, deployments would provide a useful uplift without costing a great deal. DROPS (if any are left in service), the newer Enhanced Palletized Load System (EPLS) and whatever is chosen for the non-articulated Vehicle Programme (NAVP) can be used for container transport in and around the port and beyond. EPLS can lift ISO containers without first placing them on a flatrack but in most other respects, EPLS is broadly similar to DROPS. The H Frame or Container Handling system uses ISO locks and can lift 8’0″, 8’6″ and 9’0″ containers with an optional kit for 4’0″ and 3’3″ half-height containers. The MAN SV Recovery Vehicle can lift 15 tonnes and the Iveco Truck Mounted Loader, 5.3 tonnes, is useful for shifting pallets and smaller or unloaded containers.

Where situations dictate the use of non-specialised container lifting equipment a spreader frame increases speed and safety. The twist locks are activated by pulling a toggle which eliminates the need for personnel to climb on top of the container.

10ft spreader

Bottom lug lifters are also available to avoid working at height.

Bottom Lift Spreader

Not everything has to be powered and simple mechanical equipment still has utility, especially in rapid response situations where the heavy lift equipment might be in follow on offload. Recotech in Sweden make the 17-tonne capacity Wing LiftAnga in Poland and Haacon in Germany also make similar equipment that can be used for limited road moves and aircraft/vehicle loading.

Haacon Container Lifter 5

These manual systems can be slow and have a lower lift weight but the advantage of not needing power is obvious, especially for the wheeled lifting jacks. They also allow containers to be loaded and unloaded from vehicles without any MHE.

Although manual systems are cheap and easy to use they often lack speed and lifting capacity. Moving containers around port storage areas are usually done by equipment like container forklifts or the Kalmar but as mentioned above, are difficult to deploy, expensive and few in number. Other powered systems might not have the reach or stacking capacity of the Kalmar but are much lower cost and easier to deploy. The simplest type is like the manual systems above, corner jacks and hoists, but of course, powered.

Container mobilisers are similar in concept to the large shuttle and straddle carriers seen in container terminals. They are much easier to transport although may require some assembly in theatre, can operate on moderate to poor surfaces and can be easily used indoors or where space is tight due to a low height and small footprint.

Best of all, compared to the Kalmars of this world, as cheap as chips!

CombiliftISO LoaderMeclift and Mobicon are notable manufacturers in this space, the latter selected by the US Navy for moving containers on and off LCS. The Combilift is delivered in two 20ft containers and takes about a day to build, ideal for Requirement 2. The Mobicon straddle carrier uses two lifting frames that operate together rather than the rigid frame of the Combilift. Mobicon also makes a soft terrain version that because of the low container height are not vulnerable to tipping over should a soft patch or hole be encountered, they are more or less tip-proof.

The Meclift is intended for use on storage yards.

Meclift 3

Many ports will also have a number of Mafi trailers and tractors, where these are not available, damaged or beyond repair, the equipment described above would provide a good alternative.

Any of these relatively cheap systems would be an ideal addition to this package, relatively cheap, easy to operate, efficient, widely available and likely to deliver meaningful uplift in throughput without taking too much in service equipment away from other operational tasks.

Port Operations Management

The final part of Requirement 2 is port operations management, fundamentally, two elements. In addition to maintaining security and utilities, they are traffic management and the administration of port activities.

Traffic management in and out of the port is an administrative task not unlike air traffic management, although obviously not as fast. The people best placed to deliver this would be the personnel normally employed at the port, managers, pilots and controllers. In some scenarios, simply turning up with a pile of cash and paying the existing staff can cut through any administrative issues and get people working.

This is an important and not to be overlooked element of augmenting or ‘repairing’ a port; its people are every bit as important as the built environment and mobile plant.

A small administration cell that can manage port movements and small scale local employment has great potential to leverage investment in Requirement 2.

This admin cell could use any of the many Operational Portable Office’s already in service as long as they are equipped with sufficient people and cash management equipment, computers and software.


As with the existing capabilities for the survey requirement, the UK has the majority of the means of meeting this requirement.

Building on the port design, port operating, civil engineering, salvage and technical capabilities found within the MoD (e.g. SALMO), the MoD’s contractors, Royal Engineers, Engineering and Logistic Staff Corps, Royal Logistic Corps and the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, this proposal simply takes those, pulls them together into a focussed organisation, expands their capabilities with selected equipment and consumable purchases, and establishes a long term strategy to sustain mass.

Out of this mass, the ability to rapidly respond to disaster or defence requirements can be offered to the Government, NATO, and other allies. There is a question of ambition inherent in the equipment and organisation choices described above; should we establish a new Royal Engineers regiment, or simply attach a squadron to 17 Port and Maritime RLC, what level of spares holdings for target port cargo handling equipment is appropriate, should we use a dedicated piling rig or accept the lower capacities of an excavator attachment, and many more.

But what binds these discussions is a recognition that port engineering, salvage and operation, at a level that is ‘good enough’ has significant defence advantages. Underpinning the defence aspect is that of building stability overseas through the development of coastal economies and an ability to respond to natural disasters.

All this is a Good ThingTM

To make it happen, we have to use public funds sensibly, with both Defence and Overseas Development Assistance, acting in a concerted and coordinated ‘joined up’ manner.

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Change DateChange Record
 30/05/2017Initial issue
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