After the Haiti earthquake in 2010 the port rehabilitation task at Port-au-Prince demanded both military and civilian expertise.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere but after decades of poor governance it was starting to pull itself out from that dubious title. The USA had a number of interests in the country; it was a major source of mass migration, had many areas of weak governance that were a haven for drugs transhipment activities and former President Bill Clinton had only recently been appointed UN Special Envoy to the country.
US forces had also intervened militarily a number of times, most recently in 2004 in Operation Restore/Uphold Democracy.
The USA, therefore, would not stand idly by when on the 12th of January 2010 at 21:53:10 UTC a magnitude 7 earthquake struck 16 miles West of Port au Prince.
230,000 people died, 197,000 were injured and over 1.2 million were displaced. 60% of the government infrastructure was destroyed and over 100,000 destroyed with many more damaged beyond repair.
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.
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.
The 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.
This initial survey confirmed that the port infrastructure had suffered significant damage.
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. Ground surveys managed to closer look at the scale of the damage. 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.
Not only was port infrastructure destroyed but there were also several hazards to navigation, reefer container with their foam insulation presented a dangerous floating hazard.
Almost immediately the US military and Coastguard were forming response plans, many other nations would also play a significant role. The immediate response would largely be ’by air’ although USN ships were ordered to set sail or divert within hours. In less than 24 hours the damaged but still usable L’Ouverture Toussaint International Airport was hosting units from the 1st Special Operations Wing based in Florida who concentrated on restoring traffic management for the inevitable onslaught on aircraft.
Air drops would also be used to supplement the air delivered supplies and personnel, the image below shows a USAF C17 air dropping supplies on January 18th.
Commercial flight operations were restarted on the 19th of February.
From the 14th of January to the 19th of February the airport had managed to offload over 15,000 tonnes of freight and evacuate nearly 15,000 people over 6,000 sorties.
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.
The operation to get relief supplies into Haiti would make use of existing port facilities and ‘over the beach’ and it is this allows a comparison of the two methods..
First to dock in Port au Prince, on the 18th January, was the Dutch support ship HNLMS Pelikaan[tabs] [tab title=”HNLMS Pelikaan”]
Before the Pelikaan arrived, the US Coast Guard was already there.
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.
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.
The US Navy and Coastguard involvement, summarised and reproduced in full from the Analysis of the USN Response;
The US Navy and Coastguard involvement, summarised and reproduced in full from the Analysis of the USN Response; The USS Higgins was returning from a CENTCOM deployment and was in the Atlantic Ocean. She was immediately diverted to Haiti and she arrived on 14 January as the first U.S. Navy ship on-scene.
She was immediately diverted to Haiti and she arrived on 14 January as the first U.S. Navy ship on-scene.
The USS Higgins was returning from a CENTCOM deployment and was in the Atlantic Ocean. She was immediately diverted to Haiti and she arrived on 14 January as the first U.S. Navy ship on-scene. The USS Carl Vinson had fortuitously gotten underway on the morning of the earthquake, which gave her a great head-start. Vinson was able to off-load the Carrier Air Wing and on-load helicopters (19 total) as she passed Mayport, Florida on 13 January. These helicopters were able to arrive or be on their way within 12 hours of notification. This rapid maneuver allowed Vinson to arrive off of Port-au-Prince by the morning of 15 January.
The USS Carl Vinson had fortuitously gotten underway on the morning of the earthquake, which gave her a great head-start. Vinson was able to off-load the Carrier Air Wing and on-load helicopters (19 total) as she passed Mayport, Florida on 13 January. These helicopters were able to arrive or be on their way within 12 hours of notification. This rapid maneuver allowed Vinson to arrive off of Port-au-Prince by the morning of 15 January.USS Bataan was activated as the Ready Duty Amphibious Readiness Group, to include USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall. These ships got underway from Virginia on 14 January to North Carolina in order to embark 22 MEU elements.
USS Bataan was activated as the Ready Duty Amphibious Readiness Group, to include USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall. These ships got underway from Virginia on 14 January to North Carolina in order to embark 22 MEU elements.These elements had recently returned from deployment, and the Air Combat Element (ACE) had recently decomposited. Nevertheless, an ACE was created, though new, and embarked with the ARG along with the rest of 22 MEU.
These elements had recently returned from deployment, and the Air Combat Element (ACE) had recently decomposited. Nevertheless, an ACE was created, though new, and embarked with the ARG along with the rest of 22 MEU.USS Gunston Hall was set to deploy for Africa Partnership Station, which involves humanitarian operations and military training events off of Africa.
USS Gunston Hall was set to deploy for Africa Partnership Station, which involves humanitarian operations and military training events off of Africa.
Gunston Hall was diverted initially from this mission and traveled with the BataanARG/MEU, arriving with those ships in Haiti on 18 January.
USNS Grasp was diverted from Belize to assist with salvage operations and to serve as a diving platform for divers (salvage and construction), first arriving on 18 January after loading personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) the day before. Assets from Naval Oceanographic Office performed surveys of wharfs, piers, and approaches (using USNS Henson and a Fleet Survey Team).A Joint Logistics Hub (CTF-48) was stood-up at GTMO on 18 January with the idea of providing a large pipeline close to the Joint Operating Area (JOA). This hub went into overdrive on 21 January, when Commander, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) took command.
A Joint Logistics Hub (CTF-48) was stood-up at GTMO on 18 January with the idea of providing a large pipeline close to the Joint Operating Area (JOA). This hub went into overdrive on 21 January, when Commander, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) took command.A variety of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units deployed.
A variety of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units deployed.Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) provided salvage and ship husbandry skills. Underwater Construction Team One (UCT-1) provided assets to dive on and reconstruct the South Pier at the Main Terminal in Port-au-Prince.
Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) provided salvage and ship husbandry skills. Underwater Construction Team One (UCT-1) provided assets to dive on and reconstruct the South Pier at the Main Terminal in Port-au-Prince.
Security detachments from the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force (MESF) embarked in Comfort to provide security, and a larger security force embarked in Fort McHenry. A Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) embarked in Bataan (and a second team was part of APS in Gunston Hall). Various NAVELSG assets went to GTMO as well as on USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (for JLOTS). Naval Mobile
Construction Battalion Seven (as well as Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 that arrived on Williams) provided construction capability. And personnel from Combat Camera (at the Embassy) provided various visual recording capabilities.
USNS Comfort departed Baltimore on 16 January, much faster than the normal 5-day activation time for hospital ships. Much debate ensued over the staffing of the ship, but this was worked out during transit, allowing the Comfort to arrive in Haiti on 20 January and receive additional augments once on station. Other medical assets also deployed to the other ships, including Fleet Surgical Teams and a Casualty Receiving Triage Ship team (to augment medical staffs on ships).
The Lummus arrived on 22 January with the first of Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) assets for helping to flow supplies into the broken seaport. Other ships would arrive over the next week with additional capability (SS Cape May, SS Cornhusker State, and the USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams).
The Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (with 24 MEU embarked) was due to deploy for CENTCOM and missions involving Operation Enduring Freedom. The SECDEF agreed with a delay of this deployment, and the NAS ARG/MEU sailed for Haiti and arrived on 23 January.
Thus by 24 January, most of the U.S. Navy assets had arrived, with work starting as soon as they arrived in Haiti. The assets focused on the delivery of supplies: through GTMO and through the ships offshore of Haiti, and also using JLOTS and restoring capability at the main port of Haiti. They also delivered supplies that other organizations needed transporting. Assets provided medical care and transportation of medical patients and supplies. Assets provided security and also aided in the distribution of large quantities of food at official World Food Program Distribution Points.
Throughout all of this activity, JTF-Haiti tried to coordinate with all of the groups on the ground as everybody struggled to understand the true depth of the need. The “demand signal” was quite elusive. No end states were given. Meanwhile, assets began to report fewer and fewer earthquake-related issues and more general problems that a poor nation faces. For example, Gunston Hall noted that fewer than 10% of patients seen at the Killick clinic on 27 January were earthquake-related. Comfort made a similar observation the same day.
Almost three weeks after the earthquake, on 1 February, Vinson and Bunker Hilldeparted, having transferred most of the helicopters to Bataan and to GTMO.This point marked the slow transition of U.S. Navy assets out of theater.As U.S. Navy assets initially departed, many discussions asked whether or not other assets would arrive as relief. For example, when discussing the departure of the Bataan ARG/MEU, initial efforts focused on identifying another ARG, or perhaps an SPMAGTF on an amphibious ship. By the time Bataan departed on 24 March, one of the last ships to depart, discussions had shifted to having an amphibious ship that was prepared to deploy, if needed.
By the time Bataan departed on 24 March, one of the last ships to depart, discussions had shifted to having an amphibious ship that was prepared to deploy, if needed.
Of the ships, the USNS Grasp stayed the longest, departing on 29 March after embarked Army divers and UCT-1 completed the south pier construction. NMCB-7 remained even longer (through the end of April), as it transitioned to other construction projects, and JTF-Haiti looked to transition toward “normal” engagement operations.
The commander of JTF-Haiti turned command over on 18 April to a lower ranking officer, and then JTF-Haiti was finally stood-down on 1 June, 2010.
In contrast with operations at the airport, where US forces had absolute control, the Joint Task Force – Port Opening (JTF-PO) made sure that the local port authority had the final say and the following key activities were established.
- Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS)
- Port Infrastructure Assessment and Repair
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.
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.[tabs] [tab title=”CHARTS 1″]
Various commercial, NGO and voluntary organisations worked together to improve the mapping products available to responders but what was needed was a close in survey of the port infrastructure.
Whilst 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 equipped with a portable sidescan sonar and single beam echo sounder. They were initially hosted on the USNS Grasp, sister ship of the USNS Grapple, but were soon set up on the pier.
Fortunately, USNS Grasp was on exercise in Belize and was immediately re-tasked, after stopping at Guantanamo to pick up supplies she arrived on the morning of the 18th.
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. The repair procedures required loose and damaged materials to be chipped away, holes drilled through the cap for new steel rebar and wooden forms created for the concrete pour.
The 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.[tabs] [tab title=”544th Engineer Diver Team January 18th Image 1″]
Sharp eyed readers will note the Quadcons (containers) still on their 463L pallets used for air carriage. The team 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.[tabs] [tab title=”USS Henson”]
Between them, by the 30th had completed an accurate survey.
Initial Salvage and Repair Tasks
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.[tabs] [tab title=”Container Removal 1″]
A secondary survey confirmed the South pier was repairable and the team got to work preparing the damaged piles for repair. The USNS Grasp was equipped with a decompression chamber that was used to treat a Haitian diver with decompression sickness[tabs] [tab title=”Pier Repair 1″]
It was obvious the port would be in no fit state to receive shipping of any significant volume and so the logistics effort for time critical supplies would need to go over the beach at Port au Prince and overland via other routes. Ports in the Domincan Republic and outside of the earthquake damage zone in Haiti would be utilised but th e overland routes were severely congested.
Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS)
JLOTS is 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.[tabs] [tab title=”SS Cape May 1″]
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.[tabs] [tab title=”INLS Causeway Ferry”]
Another important piece of the JLOTS jigsaw was the SS Cornhusker State, a dedicated crane ship. She would stand off about 3 miles from shore and transfer containers from one ship to the lighterage. Supplementing the JLOTS equipment were USMC LCAC’s, LARC’s and other landing craft.[tabs] [tab title=”Cornhusker State 1″]
Onshore, there were a number of construction tasks to complete. In and around the port area were three JLOTS receiving beaches, Red, White and Gold.
Red beach was the area between the North and South Piers at the main terminal, White Beach near the Varreoux oil terminal and Gold Beach nestled between the two.[tabs] [tab title = “White Beach 1”]
Within the port area a number of RORO ramps were built out of compacted rubble and earth, another using a couple of INLS pontoons. This enabled the ships to discharge without beaching and the pontoon allowed conventional stern ramp RORO ships to use the facility.[tabs] [tab title = “INLS Causeway”]
The Civilian Contribution
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. Overland routes from other parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic were ramping up but the port was still the main effort.
Overland routes from other parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic were ramping up but the port was still the main effort.
Crowley Maritime operate in the area and were instrumental in hugely increasing container throughput over and above JLOTS, their contribution cannot be overstated.
In addition to shipping a large amount of supplies to the Dominican Republic port of Rio Haina and then on to Haiti, Crowley emulated the JLOTS system with larger ships offloading to lighters, except the lighters were actually pretty large. 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.[tabs] [tab title=”Cape Express”]
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. The other commercial landing craft used was the Sea Express II. It is difficult to match the offload capacity of these large landing ships, especially if they can use an expedient ramp at an existing port where container storage and transport facilities exist.
To provide some measure of scale, the Crowley Marine tug Justine Foss and RORO barge American Trader docked on February 1st with over 6,000 tonnes of food supplies. Earlier, the Crimson Shipping Crimson Clover docked at the South pier with over one hundred 40ft ISO containers.[tabs] [tab title=”Crimson Clover Image 1″]
The MV Cristina Express large landing craft was used extensively by USAID and Seacor Holdings repaired pipelines between the fuel terminal and harbour that allowed bulk fuel deliveries to be made. The former Hawaii super ferries MV Alakai and MV Huaka were activated by the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) for use on Operation Restore Hope and transferred personnel, vehicles, plant and other supplies, the first arriving on January 30th.
The problem of double handling remained though, containers had to be offloaded from ships in the harbour and shuttled to the terminal, a time consuming process despite being quicker and arguably more efficient than JLOTS. What was sorely needed was a working pier that would allow large cargo ships to dock and unload directly, cutting out the double handling overhead, none were available because they had been destroyed. The bottom profile of the South pier enabled shallow draught barges to dock but not the larger container ships that could offload directly.
The solution had two components, clearing the port of all debris and installing a pair of large spudded barges to act as intermediate quaysides.
Titan Salvage and Resolve Marine were on the way to Haiti on 19th of January. Resolve provided the salvage tug Resolve Pioneer and the 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.[tabs] [tab title=”Titan Salvage Image 1″]
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. Containers were also removed from the North quayside and an 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.[tabs] [tab title=”Container Removal”]
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.
Both barges are still there, joined aby another at the North pier.
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 UK Contribution
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.
Loading in the UK[tabs] [tab title =”Largs Bay Haiti Aid Loading 1″]
17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, and other members of her embarked force delivered vehicles and buildings materials at Port-au-Prince.[tabs] [tab title =”Port-au-Prince Image 1″]
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.[tabs] [tab title=”Anse-à-Veau Image 1″]
The more you read about the earthquake response the more you realise what a simply magnificent effort it was, Israeli and Iranian teams working side by side, the air and sea logistics effort (especially by the Coastguard, Military Sealift Command and USN/USMC) and medical assistance were all straight out of the top drawer. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 17 Port and Maritime Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (those magnificent men and Mexeflote machines) also get an honourable mention.
But equally, lady luck and circumstance had a big part to play and so with the benefit of finest quality hindsight goggles could things have been done any better?
Supply lines were short, there were many adjacent countries that offered support (not least the Dominican Republic) and many of the responders were already in the area. It is often said that the more one practices the better ones luck becomes and this was absolutely true for the main body of military forces involved in the response, many having completed large scale exercises that practiced many of the capabilities used only the year before. Despite this, the sheer scale of the response and numbers of participants created many command and control problems as identified by the RAND Analysis of the military response to the earthquake. The demand for tactical information at a strategic level absorbed a great deal of time for little benefit, the long handled screwdriver as useless as ever, driving activity from adverse media coverage a common problem.
At its peak, there were 22,000 US military personnel engaged in Joint Task Force Haiti, each one requiring food and water in a food and water constrained environment.
The geography and time of year also ensured that sea conditions were benign, another place and another time may well have completely changed the ability of responders to get so much ashore so quickly.
Information and reconnaissance assets were invaluable but by Day 2, Google had made available high resolution satellite imagery which would form the basis of a number of innovative mapping and survey applications and arrangements with all responders reporting it as having a very positive impact on the response.
Despite the local GSM infrastructure being damaged the communication tool of choice was the Blackberry, being able to intgerate civilian communication systems was a key lesson as was the power of web services and SharePoint.
28 hours after the earthquake a small SOCOM team had air operations up and running at the airport, a feat which they received well deserved praise, from a normal 13 flight movements per day they enabled an average of 120 movements per day for three weeks with a peak of 150 movements per day.
The divers at the seaport operated in atrocious water conditions without appropriate protective equipment simply because none was available and the lack of joint training and equipment between the Army and Navy dive teams introduced unnecessary delays. Divers actually took daily doses of antibiotics and were constantly monitored for health problems, all for the lack of proper PPE.
The importance of material handling equipment (especially the Kalmar RTCH), being able to clear pathways out of a port area and the ability to move supplies out of port areas were again reinforced. Apparently minor capabilities like building a RORO ramp out of compacted earth and hard-core had a huge impact on the ability to flow stores through the port.
The ISO container continued to prove it is much more efficient than break bulk, the ability of the SS Cape May and SS Cornhusker State to load break bulk into containers was invaluable in the reduction of crane and lighterage movements, moving half empty containers is a fools errand. Whilst the JLOTS piers and lighters were invaluable for moving plant and vehicles to shore the amount of double handling required for palletised and containerised stores meant in reality, it was quite inefficient. If it has wheels, JLOTS is very good, if it doesn’t, there is great deal of double and triple handling to be considered.
This is a minor criticism of JLOTS, the capability as a whole enabled a significant throughput of material.
The average Seaport throughput pre earthquake was unclear, estimates ranged from 223 TEU equivalents per day to 100. In much of the subsequent reporting the lower figure seems the most common but although the higher figure comes from Lloyds Register the source of the lower remains unknown. Certainly, most of the comparison reports of JLOTS v existing seaport the lower figure is used. The target figure is also difficult to pin down, originally it was 400 TEU per day, then 200-250 and then it stopped being reported.
By the 23rd of January, 2 Navy Lighterage piers enabled a figure of 100 TEU equivalent per day. The addition of 5 Army LCU’s on the 25th January pushed this to 300 and 5 days later when they were also joined by 3 INLS systems that went up to 700 TEU per day equivalent. And yet despite this impressive throughput it was very labour intensive and the figures above are potentials, the actuals were not as high.
The potential of the USNS Grasp was little understood, although she stayed the longest of any ship and offered invaluable salvage, survey and diver support she was initially characterised by SOUTHCOM as offering limited capability.
Survey and salvage are key enablers.
Delivering anything by helicopter, despite being very photogenic, is low capacity and inefficient, particularly for dense stores like water. Much was made of the water generation capability of amphibious warships and carriers but getting it to the point of need was another matter.
The large Army landing craft provided greater utility than the USMC and USN would like to admit.
Although the smaller ports around Port au Prince were in some cases undamaged they were arguably underutilised in the response, some of the JLOTS personnel and equipment might have been better used for this and indeed some of the civilian response did actually make use of these smaller ports.
What is abundantly clear is that ‘at scale’ there is no substitute for port facilities, going over the beach is great for the short term but simply cannot meet high volume demand.
Whilst many focus on the military response one could reasonably argue that it was a number of civilian governmental and commercial organisations that actually did the heavy lifting and received less credit than they should have. Military Sealift Command, The Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit, US Coast Guard, Transport Command, Crowley Marine, Titan Salvage, Seacor and Resolve Marine being notable examples. They were rolling quickly, often with only verbal agreements in place, Crowley even had a small floatplane fly in a survey team on the 18th of January, the Sea Express and Cape Express combined with the Marcajama and SS Cornhusker State and the survey and debris removal paved the way for the port to open with the Crowley barges.
The step change in throughput when the two barges arrived was noticeable (although the actual profile in reality would have been smoother); as soon as the second Crowley barge was in place JLOTS was only used for military traffic.
The first barge arrived on 13th of February after salvage and debris removal commenced on the 3rd of February. If this salvage operation had commenced earlier the barges may have been available sooner and the need for much of the JLOTS capability diminished.
That a single cheap and simple barge with a crawler crane could deliver more than double the assembled military capability throughput is an interesting observation.
They are not the same of course and this does not suggest that the US DoD should replace all that JLOTS and Seabsing capability with a couple of barges but it might cause some pause for thought.
Nothing to see here, move along!
Finally, what about the British contribution?
Without being critical of those delivering it, let’s be honest, it was fairly minimal.
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