Twin cargo discharge challenges MTMC team
When we scheduled the tug and roll-on/roll-off barge Strong American into Jordan, it looked easy enough.
The vessel would bring cargo into the Red Sea port of Aqaba as part of exercise Early Victor 02, in mid-September. We would discharge the ship with a six-member deployment support team from the 840th Transportation Battalion, Izmir, Turkey.
Then, a month before the scheduled download, we learned the vessel would also carry a Jordan Presidential Cargo Drawdown shipment. After studying the cargo manifest, we planned for an initial discharge of exercise equipment, followed by the drawdown cargo.
Once the ship was in port, however, we realized our plans would not work. The only way we could discharge the vessel Sept. 24 was from the narrow starboard side aft ramp. Because of this arrangement, and the varying types and sizes of cargo, we realized we had inherited a simultaneous discharge.
The simple move had suddenly become more challenging. We knew both our customers–the 5th Special Forces Group and the Jordanian military–would be clamoring to get their equipment first. We also knew vacant space at the port would be at an even bigger premium.
How did the six-person deployment support team from the 840th fare?
“Great,” says Alp Ertugrul, our battalion’s longtime terminal manager, who has been a member of other deployment support teams to Jordan. “Given the challenges from the vessel, the type of cargo, and concurrent download, our team was able to pull it through.”
What contributed to the mission’s success?
For one, a solid download plan. Cengiz Koc, marine cargo specialist for the discharge, envisioned how to offload the vessel by meticulously studying its stow plan. Then, Koc led a battalion simulation exercise two weeks before the operation.
We got another assist from Sgt. 1st Class Louis Cass, the team’s NCOIC. Cass had observed the loading of the barge’s different cargoes at two American ports–Charleston, S.C.; and Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, N.C.
Koc and Cass presented their discharge ideas to Gulf Agency Co., our contracted stevedores.
As discharge began, the twin customer cargo loads and limited dockside space put a strain on our team’s command and control.
“At first, it was extremely difficult to coordinate with the authorities,” said Alp. “Jordanian officials wanted their equipment without consideration of the convenience of the discharge plan. However, as the discharge progressed, the 840th was able to get all the players to cooperate.”
The congestion at the pier from waiting trucks, moving forklifts, and a multitude of people–both for Early Victor and Jordan Drawdown–never waned. Team members used an assertive presence at the pier to successfully control the cargo discharge, flow and onward movement.
The twin discharge gave us added challenges with documentation. Team member Osman Gonen worked many issues concurrently, including duplicate Transportation Control Numbers, labels incompatible with our scanners, and setbacks with carry-away system entry. His work was augmented by accurate scanner work from Aslihan Dogu.
We got some great support from Military Sealift Command representatives Larry Larsson and Lt. Eric Tynan. The two went above and beyond the scope of their duties to assist our discharge.
The crew of the Strong American was always on hand to assist with the operation.
“In my 20 years as a cargo specialist,” said Cass, “never before have I seen a ship crew so dedicated and helpful to mission accomplishment.
“Plus, the vessel cook served great chow.”
We originally planned for the discharge of the 1,117 pieces of mostly breakbulk cargo to take three days. In the end, it took only 40 hours.
“This was one of the most challenging exercises our deployment support team has conducted in Jordan,” said Lt. Col. Dale Wronko, 840th commander. “I’m really proud of each and every member involved.”
Capt. Scott Roney
840th Transportation Battalion
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