Friday, May 20, 2011

From The Editor: MACV and Port Congestion, November 1965

As the buildup of men and materiel deployed to South Vietnam in 1965, the combined volume of military, civilian, and commercial cargo overwhelmed the country’s inadequate ports and required emergency procedures to keep vital cargo moving through the intra-theater transportation system. Port congestion in Vietnam created a major logistic bottleneck for MACV.
The JCS and Admiral Sharp sent MACV a series of increasingly urgent messages between 7 and 23 October requesting information on reports of port congestion in South Vietnam. Westmoreland and Crowley dispatched Clark to survey port conditions. When Clark returned to Saigon on 6 November, he briefed the generals on his findings. This was his report:


Da Nang:
Facilities Available:

Museum Landing: One LST and Landing Craft Utility (LCU) ramp. No storage facility as landing site was in the middle of a main thoroughfare.
Commercial pier: One LST landing that shared the end of the commercial pier for an offloading area and 200 feet of frontage.
Tien Sha Landing: Two LST and two LCU landings that were shared with ARVN.
Seabee materials ramp: A very shallow landing area.
LARCs: Several of these US amphibious vehicles were on loan to the US Navy and were used to move US Air Force ammunition from offshore vessels directly to Da Nang airfield.
Factors limiting timely discharge of vessels:

Inadequate port facilitiesa. No deep draft piers
b. Insufficient stevedoring personnel and cargo handling gear
c. Insufficient open and covered transit, staging and storage areas because of inability to acquire real estate
d. Insufficient shallow draft lighterage facilities
e. Insufficient port clearance capability
f. Non-availability of harbor control communications
2) Chu Lai backloading requirement superimposed on Da Nang

Facilities construction required:

Bridge cargo facility: Build two LST ramps, two LCU ramps, an LST pier, and 1,600 feet of wharf for lighterage.
Expand the museum ramp to add facilities for an additional LST.
Add a sheet pile bulkhead to construction materials wharf.
Increase capacity of cross-harbor bridge to 50 tons.
Port capacity approximately 1,800 short tons per day. Estimated capacity at end of 1966 in excess of 4,000 short tons per day.
Qui Nhon:
Facilities available: Two LST ramps were located on the Qui Nhon peninsula and a floating causeway/finger pier northwest of the ramps. Primary unloading facilities: the beaches themselves.
Factors limiting timely discharge of vessels:

Bad weather (monsoons).
Insufficient all-weather LST facilities.
No alongside lighterage facility.
No anchorage for floating crane.
No in-transit open and covered storage facilities.
No alongside berthing for refrigerated cargo barges.
Lack of dependable civilian stevedore work force.
Facilities construction required:

Long wharf of sheet pile face from the end of

the breakwater to the peninsula to handle coastal vessels, LSTs, and lighters up to a 20-foot draft.
Study underway as to feasibility of three deep-draft piers and four buoy berths.
Possible installation of a 60 by 600 foot De Long pier.
Port capacity was 2,294 short tons per day. Estimated capacity at the end of 1966: 4,000 short tons per day.

Nha Trang:

Facilities available: Over the beach operation only. Support via rail and road from Cam Ranh Bay available.

Factors limiting timely discharge of vessels:

Insufficient lighterage and cargo handling personnel.
No deep draft pier facilities.
Facilities construction required: One De Long pier was tentatively scheduled; sheet pile wharfs to provide all-weather lighterage capability.
Port capacity was 1,039 short tons per day. Total planned capacity at the end of 1966: 2,752 short tons per day.

Cam Ranh Bay:
Facilities available:

Old deep-draft pier
New De Long pier.
Two permanent and two temporary LST ramps.
Factors limiting timely discharge of vessels:

Old deep-draft pier was too narrow for rapid discharge of even one ship.
No ammunition pier.
Insufficient LST sites.

Insufficient number of lighters.
No lighterage berths.
Limited stevedoring and beach clearance capability.
Heavy outloading workload compounded by congestion of inadequate port facilities.
Facilities construction required:

Additional De Long pier.
Widen and lengthen concrete wharf.
Construct additional LST wharfs and ammunition piers.
Construct additional sheet steel pile wharfs.
Current port capacity was 2,995 short tons per day. Estimated capacity at the end of 1966: 6,000 short tons per day.

Vung Tau:
Facilities available: LST ramps.
Facilities construction required: Two LST ramps and one T-pier. A De Long pier was tentatively programmed. Vung Tau was not designed to be a major port but rather to take part of load off Saigon; serve as transshipment port to the Delta region; to be used as unloading point for Bien Hoa, reducing congestion at Saigon.
Factors limiting timely discharge of vessels: None.
Current capacity was approximately 300 short tons per day. Estimated capacity at the end of 1966: in excess of 2,000 short tons per day.

Facilities available:

Ten berths alongside.
Seven large berths at mooring buoys.
Four small berths at mooring buoys.

Two LST berths.
Three T-piers for coasters.
Six to ten miles of canals to warehouses alongside.
Factors limiting timely discharge of cargo:

Insufficient deep-draft pier berths.
Insufficient barges to accomplish discharge in Saigon River.
Insufficient open and covered transit storage.
Insufficient and improperly located LST discharge and loading facilities.
Obsolete lighters incapable of handling palletized cargo, preventing effective utilization of materials handling equipment.
Inadequate facilities for offloading lighterage.
Port not operated by military personnel (under South Vietnamese government control); two or three berths normally assigned military operations; three to four berths assigned to USAID cargo; remaining berths assigned to civilian commercial vessels.
Facilities construction required:

One LST slip at the Messageries et Maritimes facility.
A concrete and floating quay in the fishmarket area.
A lighter and landing craft facility in the Newport area with mooring buoys on the opposite shore.
Port capability: was approximately 13,000 short tons per day, less ammunition, petroleum, oil, and lubricant, and construction materials. Estimated capacity at the end of 1966: 24,000 short tons per day.

All Ports:
The following general problem areas prevailed at all ports:

Improper containerization; lack of unitization; broken stowage of loose and domestic pack cargos.
Non-availability of short-mast forklifts for shipboard operations essential for expeditious handling of unitized cargo.
Slippage of deliveries of materials handling equipment and spare parts to support and maintain required equipment availability rate.
Vessel outloading by Continental US ports for multiple port discharge frequently limits discharge to only one hatch.
Failure of Continental US terminals to segregate block-stow cargo by consignee.
Receipt of non-sustaining vessels without notice.
Vessels loaded full and down without regard to Port of Destination capability to expeditiously offload between deck and wing-stowed items with ship’s gear.
Project shipments to improper Port of Destination causing delays by requiring multiport diversions and discharge in-country after arrival of vessels.
No programmed tonnage forecast by Port of Destination and commodity, to enable accurate operational planning.
Vessels arrived in South Vietnamese waters with depleted bunkers often necessitating ship removal for replenishment during discharge of critical cargo."
During his briefing for Westmoreland and Crowley, Clark explained that ten first-class ports in the continental US were shipping materiel to South Vietnam as fast as they could, but MACV only had four second-class ports to receive it.

He told the generals that on almost any given day there were 100 ocean-going ships in South Vietnamese harbors or anchored off the coast. Only forty-five of those ships could be unloaded simultaneously at the seven coastal U.S. bases. The remaining ships waited, sometimes for as long as two months, for their turn to discharge cargo.

Until new port facilities were completed, many ships unloaded cargo into small landing craft. These craft then battled their way through heavy seas and monsoon rain to the beaches.

Clark described what he saw at Nha Trang:  There, a freighter loaded with 30,000 bags of cement was served by a single US Army landing craft. That craft could handle only 300 to 800 bags of cement a day, depending on the weather.  On the same beach, a US Navy landing craft discharged its cargo of 5,000 barrels of asphalt at a rate of about 300 barrels a day.

Clark explained that the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) and two of its subordinate commands, the Supply and Maintenance Command (SMC), and the Military Traffic Management Terminal Service (MTMTS) were largely responsible for the port congestion problem.

He cited an appalling situation he witnessed at Cam Ranh Bay as a typical example. Stateside MTMTS depots had no concept of port conditions in a combat zone. The MTMTS crews loaded cargo ships bound for Vietnam under peacetime commercial "full-and-down" (cargo loaded so that all available capacity was utilized) conditions that emphasized efficiency and cost savings. In order to make full advantage of storage space, MTMTS stevedores at the Oakland Army Depot uncrated ammunition and napalm bombs and stowed them in the deep wells of a vessel destined for Cam Ranh Bay. Clark watched as the Army port terminal service battalion at Cam Ranh Bay unloaded the live ordnance, a dangerous and time-consuming task. The port crew could not use material handling equipment to get at the loose ammunition and instead improvised steel cables to snake the bombs out of the cargo bay. In the process, a majority of the bombs cracked, and napalm leaked out and congealed on the inner skin of the ship. The battalion commander had to send soldiers and stevedores equipped with gas masks and putty scrapers into the bowels of the ship to scrape off the flammable gel. The cleanup process delayed the cargo ship at port for two additional days and unnecessarily exposed the battalion and ship’s crew to enemy action.

On 9 November, Westmoreland sent a message to Sharp and the JCS that it was "premature at this time to slow CONUS shipping." Westmoreland informed them that the U.S. Army 1st Logistical Command had already begun to improve the existing port facilities by hiring more Vietnamese civilian stevedores and MACV planned to contract with US civilian barge companies. Despite Westmoreland’s assurances to Washington, the cargo backlog and the number of ships awaiting discharge at Saigon port continued to accumulate.

1 comment:

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