October 27, 2020 – In the middle of the Pacific lies an island surrounded with crystal-clear water, rich with military history. A small team of U.S. Navy Seabee underwater construction divers deployed from Task Force 75 completed a maritime infrastructure assessment (MIA) of the Port of Tinian, Oct. 13.
The underwater construction team performed a multi-week assessment that included a Level II underwater inspection of all berths, ramps, connecting piers and navigational buoys. In addition, they completed a bathymetric survey spanning more than three square nautical miles, surrounding waterfront facilities topside inspections, and a multimodal assessment of the roads connecting the airport and seaport. Using their underwater tools and expertise, the Seabees were able to locate critical areas for repair that were damaged from years of typhoons and deterioration sustained since its original construction in 1945.
“The MIA is just the beginning for the work here in Tinian,” said Lt. j.g. Joshua Jepsen, officer in charge of the detachment. “As our assessment is finalized, we will be able to prioritize areas for repair and return with the resources needed to break ground on the port. After our time in Tinian, follow-on detachments will continue to return to meet the ultimate goal – a fully operational and maintained port.”
Maritime infrastructure assessments are a re-occurring job for the Seabee divers during their Indo-Pacific deployment to clear the way for underwater construction. They have been sent to conduct comprehensive assessments in places such as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, and other areas in the Indo-Pacific.
The overall goal for the Port of Tinian is to improve the waterfront infrastructure, giving them a product that is fully functional, long-lasting, and able to support a diverse amount of maritime operations in a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“I have been to a few of these islands that have so much history rooted in World War II and it’s always a humbling experience to visit these places, and reflect on the challenges and hardships that they must’ve faced back then,” said Builder 2nd Class Eli Arwood, project supervisor.
The port repair plan will maintain U.S. Indo-Pacific Command as the most agile, adaptable, and aggressive major combat operation engineering force in the Indo-Pacific Region. The inspection and follow on harbor improvements will enable the U.S. Navy to maintain its robust operating capability and enhance its lethality if called upon. The dive detachment was the first team to begin the major project, which supports U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific during exercise Valiant Shield, an annual, U.S.-only forces exercise focused on joint training in a blue-water environment.
“I think we are fortunate to be able to meet and interact with the people who are affected by what we are doing,” said Arwood. “Not everyone gets to see and know who they are impacting with their work. The people of Tinian have all been very welcoming and I think it’s been a pleasure for all of us.”
The underwater construction team’s overall mission is to conduct expeditionary, inshore, waterfront, and underwater deep ocean facility construction, inspection, repair, and maintenance operations. They are able to conduct amphibious landing support for joint logistics over-the-shore operations, including humanitarian assistance, civic assistance and underwater recovery operations.
“For the maritime infrastructure assessment, operating within a global pandemic was definitely a challenge and has been since the start of our deployment,” said Jepsen. “Despite these abnormal conditions, my team was able to show up, hit the ground running, and execute. For that, I could not ask much more.”
Task Force 75 is 7th Fleet’s primary expeditionary task force and is responsible for the planning and execution of maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving, engineering and construction, and underwater construction. It additionally provides direct support to diving and salvage operations and expeditionary intelligence throughout the Indo-Pacific region.