Wednesday, January 05, 2005

From the Sea: Fedex => UPS => Semis

Be sure to check the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15MEU) for late breaking news. You can see they plan cross decking men and equipment between ships so as to have a representative measure of the "Gator Navy" in both Sumatra and Sri Lanka. So far, the Lincoln's group has been providing helicopter support for the relief effort. But her raison d'etre is to fly off her airplanes. Being faster and closer than the Gators she got there first. She has done yeoman work! But now that the amphibious group has arrived, it's time to do some heavier lifting. Think of the Lincoln's helicopters as the Fedex air service for things that absolutely, positively had to be there overnight. Now we will begin shifting to a light parcel delivery What Can Brown Do For You? Finally, we want to move in heavy building materials etc. and will need semi truck style delivery.

The amphibs can use their landing craft air cushion LCAC to move larger quantities of materials by sea. One LCAC can carry more than all the Lincoln's helos did in one day. By far the vast majority of trade goods move by vessels plying the waters of the world. And the villages impacted by the tsunami are within walking distance of the Indian Ocean. They were founded by people arriving by boat, which is why the roads are so poor. So why wait to rebuild poor roads when the expressway of the sea is at your doorstep?
So what will the end game look like? I'd think a weekly delivery of heavy goods by a special type of ship known as Lighter Aboard SHip (LASH) of which the Navy has access to the Green Island Class LASH ship. You'll see that this is a ship that carries barges instead of containers. What would happen is that the barges would be loaded in a modern, well equipped port (e.g. Singapore) and loaded aboard the LASH ship. It would tour down the coast, stopping at each village to unload a barge(s). It's tug (carried onboard) would push the barge(s) to the beach where the natives can unload them, even in the absence of port facilities. It continues on until all the barges are gone. A sister ship could follow and pick up empties as it drops off new loaded barges. So two ships could, after three trips, have started an endless string of replenishment/return. From there it's back to the future. There will be no containers, as in modern shipping. The barges would have everything stowed in break bulk using wooden dunnage. Then the natives become latter day stevedores. Even the dunnage can be salvaged for building material. Moving huge quantities of materials will be cheap, easy and could be running in weeks not months! Of course the NGOs would have zero control over the schedule and the only thing for Kofi Annan to do is fly onto the Lincoln and announce "Mission Accomplished" before she sails on to other things.


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