Military


Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point [MOTSU]
Southport, N.C.

The Sunny Point facility is operated by the 597th Transportation Group, on a 16,000-acre, Army-owned site. The facility, opened in 1955, is the key ammunition shipping point on the Atlantic Coast for the Department of Defense. The huge Sunny Point installation, located along N.C. Highway 133, was built with a large undeveloped buffer zone and huge sand berms for safety.

The Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, N.C., the largest ammunition port in the nation, and the Army's primary east coast deep-water port. Military Ocean Terminal (MOT), Sunny Point, North Carolina, is the Department of Defense's key Atlantic Coast ammunition shipping point. It provides worldwide trans-shipment of DOD ammunition, explosives, and other dangerous cargo under the command of the 1303d Major Port Command. Sunny Point is the military ocean terminal (MOTSU) in North Carolina where munitions are brought in by truck or train and loaded aboard ships bound for Europe. It also supports Fort Bragg. If the 82nd Airborne Division is mobilized, which can happen anytime at short notice, heavy equipment and bulk supplies and ammunition for the division and its supporting units would be shipped out of MOTSU.

The terminal has a port with three docks and a temporary holding area for munitions. The Sunny Point facility, opened in 1955, is operated by the 597th Transportation Terminal Group. The facility is on a 16,000-acre, Army-owned site near the Cape Fear River with 212,000 square feet of building space.

Sunny Point is the only DOD terminal equipped to handle containerized ammunition. The terminal commander also supervises deployment and redeployment of joint forces through the North Carolina State ports of Wilmington and Morehead City. Its Civilian Personnel Advisory Center successfully regionalized under the Southeast Region at Fort Benning in 1996. Major functions of the terminal in support of its ammunition port operations mission include traffic management, Army rail service, Reserve Component training, public works, ammo surveillance and security, global communications, equipment maintenance, contract administration, resource management, and installation logistics. Population served includes 10 soldiers, 228 civilians, 3 USAR Reserve Units, plus 42 USAR IMAs.

Sunny Point had the mission of transshipping over 90 percent of the resupply munitions sent to and from the Gulf during Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Sortie. The 1303d Major Port Command (MPC) loaded and discharged 2.1 million tons of munitions from 186 vessels in support of those operations. The port reception and clearance of such vast amounts of cargo, in a relatively short period of time, were the most challenging and difficult tasks. Eighty percent of all ammunition that came to Sunny Point during the war arrived by rail, requiring the unloading of some 27,000 railcars. Like many of the rail lines on Army installations throughout the United States, Sunny Point's 100 miles of track had not been heavily used since the Vietnam War; as a result, they had been maintained only to meet minimum standards. To put it simply, the track was not in condition to suddenly accept a tenfold increase in use. The Army Reserve 1205th Transportation Railway Services Unit (TRSU) provided Sunny Point with the critical mix of manpower, skills, and training that ensured rail cargo operations would not be slowed or halted during the rest of the war.

During Operation Noble Anvil the Air Force sought to replenish its stock of M117 (750-pound) and Mark (MK) 82 (500-pound) bombs in Europe. This was a high-priority Air Force requirement for a very large number of bombs. The requisitioned quantities were too large for air transport, so the bombs would be moved by rail and then on ocean vessels to Europe. They were loaded onto eight trains for delivery to Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, North Carolina. Six of the trains had arrived at Sunny Point, and two vessels loaded with bombs had headed for Europe when the Yugoslav Government agreed to NATO's peace terms. The two remaining trains were diverted to storage depots.

Deployment Support Command's 597th Transportation Group at Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point, North Carolina, proved it could handle the challenge of meeting depot-to-port ammunition distribution and surge requirements when it completed the upload of the Military Sealift Command's MV Chesapeake Bay in two grueling 24-hour workdays. The operation was in support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff exercise, Turbo Cads '99. This was the first time the North Carolina port was used for a Turbo Cads exercise-a test designed to confirm a unit's ability to distribute containerized ammunition. After leaving port, the ship sailed first to Guam to unload 256 containers of munitions, then on to Korea to discharge the remaining 597 containers.

Sunny Point boasts the best safety record in the Military Traffic Management Command and is a recognized leader in environmental stewardship. The humid climate in North Carolina produces lush vegetation throughout the summer and becomes a fire hazard in drier fall and winter months. This has prompted the US Forest Service to give the Southeastern Coastal Area a fire-danger rating comparable to California's West Coast Chaparral Area because the dense growth often provides fuel for hard-to-control wildfires.

To combat this hazard and promote the health of select plants and animals, the 597th US Army Transportation Terminal Group, Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, N.C., designed an efficient program to reduce ground fuel through prescribed burning with low-intensity fires during moderate weather conditions. Carefully managed burns create a buffer should a wildfire occur, giving needed time to protect other sites on the terminal property. Managed burns range from 1,000 to 4,500 acres each year. Sites chosen for prescribed burning are "rotated" so that the same site is selected for controlled burns every three to five years.

On 31 July 1995 Weeks Marine, Inc., Camden, New Jersey was awarded a $7,585,452 Firm Fixed contract for deep draft dredging, Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point North Carolina: Deepening entrance channel number 1 from its current depth to 38 feet mean lower low water (MLLW) and widening the channel from its current width to 400 feet, deepening Basin number 1 from its current depth to -38 feet MLLW, deepening Entrance Channel number 2 from its current depth to -38 feet MLLW and widening the channel from its current width to 400 feet, deepening Basin number 2 from its current depth to -38 feet MLLW and widening a portion of the basin from its current width to 1,500 feet. Disposal of dredge material was in the Wilmington Ocean Dredged Material Disposal site (ODMDS). The total quantity of material to be dredged was estimated to be 4,349,100 cubic yards. Work will be performed in Sunny Point, North Carolina, and was expected to be completed by 20 June 1996.

Wilmington is one of only two deep-draft ports in North Carolina and the only one that handles containerized cargo, so the Cape Fear channel is critical to commerce. In September 1996 wave action from Hurricane Fran had reduced the minimum draft across half the channel width by three feet, setting up a severe navigational bottleneck. Philadelphia District sent the dredge McFarland, the only oceangoing vessel in the world equipped for three dredging methods -- bottom-dump, pump-ashore and sidecast. For this assignment she worked exclusively via bottom-dump dredging. Dredged material was deposited in open water outside the channel, where it helped build up an underwater berm to protect nearby shrimping areas. The McFarland concluded its emergency mission on 29 September 1996, having removed more than 167,000 cubic yards of sandy material that was limiting navigation in the channel.

The Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point needed dredging in early 1998. The Sunny Point Army Depot had scheduled a deep-draft ship to arrive in mid-March. That left only two months for the New Orleans District's dredge Wheeler to dredge and dispose of 2.3 million cubic yards of sand, silt and clay. The Wheeler operated 24 hours a day, dredging the Cape Fear River and the depot at a production rate up to three times faster than the McFarland, a much smaller dredge. The goal was a 38-feet project depth. The Wheeler finished dredging in North Carolina 10 March 1998, meeting its goal and making the channel and berth areas ready for the incoming deep-draft ship.

Opening the Sunny Point, N.C., facility to commercial cargo is part of a new initiative of the Military Traffic Management Command. The commercial use will enhance the training of port personnel and earn money for the facility's operation. The first cargo, which arrived 24 June 2001 on the Giga Trans, presented unique challenges. The steam turbine generator, moved in two separate pieces, weighed more than 760,000 pounds. Intermodal Terminal Inc., a logistics company based in Houston, Texas, searched for a port that could handle the offloading and transport of the oversized generator. The firm discovered the cargo was too large to fit between various train trestles and bridges along the rail routes from nearby Atlantic Ocean commercial ports. The solution they found was the Military Traffic Management Command's Sunny Point facility. A pilot program allowing the US Army to conduct commercial movements from the Carolina port was approved in April 2000.

A fire erupted on an ammunition ship berthed at the Military Traffic Management Command's Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point on 14 July 2001. The fire erupted in the engine room of the "Edward Carter" at 4:10 p.m., Saturday afternoon. The vessel is operated by the US Navy's Military Sealift Command.Firefighting units from Sunny Point and nearby communities in Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and Horry counties responded. Heavy smoke poured from the unit and compounded efforts to extinguish the blaze. As a precaution at the height of the fire, the US Coast Guard closed the adjacent Cape Fear River for four miles in either direction to maritime traffic. The fire was reported extinguished at approximately 10 p.m. One body was recovered on the vessel. A second crewman, reported to have jumped from the ship into the Cape Fear River, was reported missing. The Edward Carter arrived at Sunny Point on June 14 for the loading of prepositioned explosives. The vessel was to have departed for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean on July 27. The vessel was not being loaded at the time of the fire. The vessel carried approximately 1,232 ammunition containers, the equivalent of 5 million net explosive weight of assorted munitions and missiles.



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