September 8, 2020 (Google Translation) – The Tonnerre amphibious helicopter carrier set sail from the port of Beirut on Friday, September 4, 2020, marking the end of its engagement in Operation Friendship. During a month of projection in Lebanon, the PHA and its 400 soldiers made a decisive contribution to the assistance and emergency mission carried out for the benefit of the capital, hard hit by the explosion of 04 August.
During their 20 days of effective presence in the port, the French soldiers joined forces with their Lebanese counterparts in around fifteen projects to allow the first port of Lebanon to regain its full activity. Although partially destroyed by the double blast, the port was able to once again welcome the maritime traffic essential to supply the country and the delivery of international aid. After having established a first maritime and humanitarian bridge between France and Lebanon from August 9 to 13, the Tonnerre deployed, as soon as it arrived, its teams of experts to establish an initial precise map of the damage caused in the various basins of the port. For this, it relied in particular on detachments of demining divers and hydrographers from the French Navy, on board for the mission. Using state-of-the-art equipment such as submerged sonar and underwater robots, the latter were able to locate, classify and identify multiple echoes. Most turned out to be pieces of the wharf and warehouses adjacent to the crater. They also discovered crane trucks weighing several tens of tons thrown by the explosion. Finally, they investigated the damaged or sunk ships that were blocking the water and the approaches to the quays in order to assess their condition for a subsequent refloating.
Simultaneously with these actions on and under the port’s water body, the Tonnerre sailors made a substantial contribution to revive the various key infrastructures of the port, in complementarity with the action of the Ventoux land group . Rehabilitation of traffic lights, the freshwater distribution network, surveillance and telecommunication resources of the harbor master’s office, naval repairs on easement boats, work in the naval base … These are all projects carried out that facilitate restarting the port’s activity, the functioning of which relies on numerous civil and military players.
Beyond these one-off repair interventions, the PHA Tonnerre has made its action long-term. In terms of assistance to governance, first of all, since it has initiated actions of advice and expertise for the security and then the revival of the port of the capital. This has resulted in particular in the creation of a maritime crisis management center, dedicated to the challenges of State action at sea with the mission of coordinating the action of the various local actors in the current crisis. In terms of aid on the ground, on the other hand: after having deployed anti-pollution barriers around the wrecks lying along the quays, the Tonnerre soldiers passed the baton to a team from CEPPOL (Center d’Expertise Pratique de Lutte Anti-Pollution). These sailors will be responsible for consolidating the anti-pollution devices around the wrecks in the port while awaiting their refloating, and helping the Lebanese authorities to put in place a long-lasting system to combat the risk of maritime pollution.