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March 2010

Bridging the gap
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By MSC Public Affairs

The port infrastructure in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was devastated. Because most humanitarian aid bound for Haiti goes by ship, relief supplies required another way to get ashore.

The solution was joint logistics over-the-shore, or JLOTS - offloading cargo from ships at sea and then transporting that cargo ashore via landing craft and specially designed motorized and non-motorized barges called lighterage.

Ten MSC-operated vessels supported JLOTS, including two Maritime Prepositioning Ships, both owned by MSC; two ships that were activated from the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force and under MSC operational control; one MARAD high-speed ferry; and five chartered vessels.

By mid-February, more than 1,000 20-foot containers of vital cargo and more than 170 military vehicles, all of which had arrived aboard ships, had been ferried ashore on lighterage delivered by MSC. Supplies included baby formula, medical supplies, USAID relief supplies, fuel trucks and dump trucks.

USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus arrived in theater Jan. 22. The ship carried three lighterage systems and one Army LCM-8 - an amphibious vessel used to transport people or cargo from a ship at sea to shore. Mission completed, Lummus departed Haiti Feb. 3.

USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams, the second of two MPS, arrived Jan. 31. It carried equipment to help shoreside soldiers and sailors receive, organize and distribute cargo once it reached shore; supplies to build a Seabee base camp for up to 1,600 personnel; seven Army vehicles that can lift and transport cargo containers under adverse conditions; and nearly 200 soldiers and sailors who are now directly supporting JLOTS efforts. As of mid-February, Williams remained on site to provide tendering services and deliver fuel and water to the lighterage craft.

RRF heavy-lift ship SS Cape May was loaded with the Navy's most modern lighterage equipment - called the Improved Navy Lighterage System - in Norfolk and arrived Jan. 29, when the lighterage was offloaded and assembled.

While at anchor, Cape May provided berthing space and potable water for local personnel. The ship also had dock space available for maintenance on the lighterage systems, and remains on-station.

RRF crane ship SS Cornhusker State arrived Jan. 30, making its shipboard cranes available for lifting cargo from ships onto lighterage for transport to shore. The ship has been used primarily to lift palletized cargo from ships, placing the pallets aboard barges where the cargo is placed into containers for easier transport to shore. Cornhusker State remains in Port-au-Prince to continue its support.

High-speed ferry MV Huakai, for which MARAD assumed caretaker responsibilities in 2009, delivered about 160 additional military personnel Jan. 30, primarily to support the shoreside reception portion of the JLOTS operation. As of mid-February, Huakai was ferrying vehicles and humanitarian assistance cargo from Jacksonville to Port-au-Prince.

Five short-term chartered vessels proved valuable. Tug-barges Elsbeth II/BB-100, Allie B/Memphis Bridge, McAllister Boys/Atlantic Trader and Caribe Pioneer/Foss 343 assisted in the download of break-bulk, roll on/roll off and containerized cargo. Tug boat Victoria Hunt assisted in the movement of ships, lighterage and barges. As of mid-February, four of the five chartered vessels remained in Haiti to support relief operations.

"The crews provided outstanding support," said Tim Pickering, MSC cargo project officer. "As a result, lives are being saved, and pain is being eased. There's great satisfaction in knowing that."