August 24, 2018 – Members of Expeditionary Port Unit 102 (EPU 102), based out of the Navy Operational Support Center in New York City, was in Sattahip, Thailand, to support cargo operations and provide assistance to MV Ocean Grand, Aug. 17.
“EPU 102 is a highly mobile unit staffed by reserve component personnel that can quickly deploy in support of contingency operations to locations around the world that have no MSC or Navy presence,” said Navy Cmdr. Donald Moore, commanding officer of EPU 102. “We can establish port operations and manage the arrivals and departures of cargo ships, provide husbanding services, and coordinate with all parties ashore and afloat to ensure safe on-time, cargo operations in support of the theater commander’s mission.”
Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) voyage-charter MV Ocean Grand arrived in Sattahip, Thailand, in its latest port visit to offload equipment for exercise Hanuman Guardian 2018.
The Ocean Grand departed Tacoma, Wash., in mid-May from Joint Base Lewis-McChord with equipment and a detachment of ship riders, and has conducted cargo operations in support of military exercises in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Following the port stop in Thailand, the Ocean Grand is scheduled to transit to Japan for the next exercise support.
The Ocean Grand is a commercial ship from Intermarine under contract by MSC to support Pacific Pathways 18-2 (PP 18-2), a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) mobility operation that supports five USARPAC exercises and links them into a single operation by using a single MSC commercial vessel to carry a designated task force and their force package equipment for the entire duration.
The vessel is a heavy-lift, general cargo vessel that’s equipped for carriage containers and strengthened for heavy cargo. It is equipped with three shipboard cranes: crane one, which is near the bow, can lift approximately 120 metric tons (265,000 pounds); and cranes two and three can each lift approximately 450 metric tons (about one million pounds). When cranes two and three are used as a single unit, the cranes combine for 900 metric tons of lift.
On a single voyage plan, the Ocean Grand carried cargo to support multiple U.S. Army Pacific exercises: Hamel in Australia, Garuda Shield in Indonesia, Keris Strike in Malaysia, Hanuman Guardian in Thailand, and Orient Shield in Japan.
During this voyage plan, EPU 102, a subordinate organization to MSC, will have travelled to each location prior to ship’s arrival and integrate with the ship’s operations and the service members that were responsible for receiving the offloaded gear.
“There is no sustained U.S. Navy or MSC presence in Thailand,” said Moore. “EPU 102 provides that presence, ensuring our MSC ships (whether owned, operated or chartered) can complete their sealift mission in support of the theater commander. EPU 102’s presence, along with that of our joint partner, demonstrates to our coalition partners the United States’ resolve and commitment to security and prosperity in the region.”
Expeditionary Port Units are light and agile, providing a small footprint while delivering a wealth of industry expertise. During PP18-2, EPU 102 provided a critical link between USARPAC and the Ocean Grand.
Additionally, EPU 102’s forward presence enabled real-time reporting to MSC Far East regarding the progress of the operation, which benefited the commander’s command and control.
“Uniformed MSC representatives that can speak both military and maritime yield dividends to facilitate clear communication and expectations between our customer and our vessels,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Nelson, executive officer, EPU 102. “Having a Naval presence alongside the Army ashore allows for a greater flow of information regarding ship arrival and capabilities, as well as gives the customer a 24/7 focal point to address any questions or concerns they may have.”
Although, the EPU’s presence facilitates real-time and world benefits, the PP18-2 evolution also provides the EPU valuable training experience. As Moore pointed out, there is no set scenario during an EPU deployment. The list of tasks can vary by a wide degree.
“In 2008-2009, EPU 102 was activated to act as Military Sealift Command Office Kuwait and our Sailors experienced this first hand,” said Moore. “In a real-world scenario, there may be significantly degraded local civilian support structure at these ports. In that case, the EPU’s role as a husbanding agent expands much further.”
Additionally, in terms of Antiterrorism and Force Protection, the EPU’s role would be expanded to coordinate on a much larger scale with Security Forces whether Navy, joint or coalition, to ensure escort protection of high valued assets, vetting of tugs, and land-side port security, as well as coordination of military detachments on board MSC vessels (owned, operated or chartered).
Expeditionary Port Unit 102 is one of 15 EPUs in MSC out of the U.S. to support exercises, operations and contingencies around the globe.
MSC operates approximately 115 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.