April 19, 2010 at 11:47 am 2 comments

Army-Navy Divers Repair Haitian Port

U.S. Navy Diver 1st Class John Nea inspects a damaged pier Jan. 25, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Defense Dept. photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier)

When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12, a key part of the infrastructure damaged in the capital, Port-au-Prince, was the city’s port facility.

One of the port’s two piers was “a complete loss,” according to U.S. Navy Capt. James Wink, the chief engineer for the U.S. Joint Task Force-Haiti response to the quake. In addition to collapsing the port’s north pier, the earthquake knocked about 350 feet off the south pier, sending it into the water. That left some 800 feet of usable pier – after repairs were made, Wink told a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable recently.

U.S. Army divers from the 544th Engineer Dive Team and Navy divers from Underwater Construction Team 1 assessed the damage and then reinforced damaged sections of the pier. Final repairs were completed in March and the south pier can accommodate a load of up to 30 tons, said Wink, the executive officer of Naval Facilities and Engineering Command, Southwest, based in San Diego, California.

Army Staff Sgt. William D'Angelo and Navy Builder 2nd Class Andrej Paskevic, drill guide holes into a damaged section of a pier at the port in Port-au-Prince, Feb. 6. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier)

When he arrived in Haiti Jan. 29, Wink said he was almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the devastation after the 7.0-magnitude quake. “The debris management was probably the thing that jumped out at me on that first day,” Wink said, adding: “Before we could do anything else, we had to get the rubble out of the way.”

To illustrate the task, Wink said the rubble constituted 25 million cubic yards of debris, an amount that could fill New Orleans’ sports stadium, the 10-acre, 73,000-seat Louisiana Superdome, five times.

Another problem was getting earth-moving equipment through the snarled traffic of Port-au-Prince, a daunting task even before the earthquake struck. “Port-au-Prince is already a congested area. Getting through on a good day takes a long time. When you have heavy equipment removing rubble and causing detours, it really slows things down,” Wink said.

In addition to Navy Construction Battalions (Seabees) and Army and Air Force engineers, Wink said the humanitarian relief effort is being assisted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) a State Department entity, and the United Nations. Military engineers from Japan, Korea, Italy, Bolivia and Chile are also assisting.

He said reconstruction work is currently focusing on making safe temporary housing for the homeless — internally-displaced persons (IDP). That means improving the infrastructure at IDP camps in the hills around Port-au-Prince to mitigate possible flash-floods and landslides during Haiti’s rainy season.

“And we’re using both the Japanese and Navy Seabees inside some of those camps to work drainage systems, to build reinforcments to some of the walls inside the camp,” Wink said. Later the Seabees will assist the U.N. in building additional IDP camps north of Port-au-Prince.

Army Specialist Leslie Shiltz (center), Navy Chief Equipment Operator Steve Eckroth (right), and Staff Sgt. Micah Sherrod, wrap wire around adjoining pieces of reinforcement bar used to strengthen sections of pier in Port-au-Prince. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier)

Wink said the Port-au-Prince pier is now under control of the Haitian government “and there’s no Defense Department involvement in this operation today.”  The Haitian government is working with an outside consultant to develop future port plans, including a possible second pier, Wink said. The Defense Department’s Joint Task Force-Haiti is scheduled to end operations at the end of May. But some Seabees will be staying on to participate in Operation New Horizon, an exercise that will include building community centers and schools in Haiti.

Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Lussier, who took the photos used in this blog, post is part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, Detachment Combat Camera, attached to salvage ship USNS Grasp. (Navy photo by Logistics Specialist 1st Class Kelly Chastain)

Entry filed under: Haiti, International Relief, National Security and Defense. Tags: , , , , , , .


2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. James Cornman  |  June 12, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I just want the world to know that SEABEES, who wasn’t mentioned, played just as big a role in repairing the pier in POP. I just believe that the handfull of SEABEES from NMCB 7 deserve a little credit too

    • 2. John Doyle  |  June 14, 2010 at 3:35 pm

      Mr. Cornman —
      You’re right the SEABEES played a big role in repairing the pier — and other locations in Port au Prince.
      In fact, I mentioned the SEABEES at least three times in the posting — but I didn’t specify which units and that was an oversight.
      I meant no slight to the NMCB7.
      I also linked the Blog posting to the Website of NMCB7’s parent unit: the U.S. Naval Construction Force so people could get the low down on ALL the Navy construction units involved in this heroic effort.
      Thanks for your constructive criticism (no pun intended) that underscored an oversight. I hope you will continue visiting 4GWAR.
      -John Doyle


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