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Port of Burgas

Bulgaria has two major ports on the Black Sea, Varna and Burgas. Both act as East-West transport corridor gateways of Bulgaria. Port facilities are generally adequate for bulk commodities, but lack facilities for special handling. Rehabilitation of both ports is planned. Bourgas is the second largest port in Bulgaria, and is in close proximity to Serbia, FYROM (Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia), Greece and Turkey. The Bulgarian railways network and the Bulgarian national road system link Bourgas with major industrial inland points of the Balkans. Bulgaria is a country of the size of the state of Ohio and has a population of almost 9 million people. The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia.

Bourgas offers a large port facility, which can accommodate various ships and is close to a modern commercial airport. The Army has an agreement with the Bulgarian military to use it's recreation facility located about 20 kilometers from the port, which they use to house task force personnel. Using this port provides the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. European Command, with another choice by providing another access point into the Balkans. Previously, KFOR used two ports for cargo movement supporting its troops in the U.S.-controlled sector of Kosovo-Thessaloniki, Greece and Bremerhaven, Germany.

Bourgas provides the Army with another choice in the Balkan Area of Operations. It provides the flexibility and an opportunity to have multiple choices in how the US can deploy and redeploy forces to and from Kosovo. Use of the Bourgas port provides another entry into the Balkans. In addition, the use of Bulgarian military and civilian personnel reduces the size of the American port presence. The distant location has unique attributes for the American military and the peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo.

For the first time, a Black Sea port is being used for the rotation of U.S. military equipment redeployed from the U.S. controlled sector of Kosovo. The US Navy's Military Sealift Command contracted the Greek-flagged cargo ship MV Thelisis to move 221 pieces of US Army light infantry equipment, including Humvees, trucks, moving equipment and containers, from the Bulgarian port of Bourgas to Charleston, South Carolina. The equipment arrived by train beginning 11 February 2001, and was loaded aboard the ship by the US Army's Military Traffic Management Command. The equipment belongs to the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" and was part of a scheduled equipment rotation. The 8,904-ton vessel took about two weeks to reach its destination. The Navy frequently contracts vessels to move cargo for the US military to speed movement of equipment and because it's cost efficient. MV Thelisis was contracted from the Greek port of Piraeus. It would obviously cost a lot more to bring ships from the States.

Task Force Bourgas included about 70 personnel mostly from the Army's 21st Theater Support Command based out of Kaiserslauten, Germany. The Task Force remained in Bulgaria until the end of February 2001. Army commanders then evaluated the port and decide whether to use it again in the future. The Bulgarians also provided military assistance including maintenance support, divers and a Navy 'cutter' to provide force protection. Bulgarian military provided a large amount of technical assistance and their support was critical to reducing the number of US soldiers required to make this operation a success. Based on the initial success of the port operations planning is made for future port operations.

The Army frequently moves its equipment in and out of theater to ensure optimum mission readiness. US forces were essentially 'testing' the port of Bourgas "prior to any further rotations"-assessing factors such as support from the Bulgarian military and port authorities, the quality of port facilities, and force protection.

The trio of ships which sailed from Beaumont, Texas, in America's heartland, had a destination a half a world away: Bourgas, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea. The ships traveled 6,675 nautical miles. The first ship to arrive was the MV Merlin on 30 April 2001. The MV Project Arabia arrived May 7 and the MV Scanderborg on May 8. The equipment comes from several Army units. For this operation, they are headquartered by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) of Fort Campbell, Ky. This was the first time the majority of an American peacekeeping force to Kosovo had come from the US. Discharge was accomplished by the port operator, the 953rd Transportation Co., Piraeus, Greece. The ships were unloaded by a mix of contracted Bulgarian labor and American military equipment operators.

The biggest challenge was training the Bulgarians to US methods and equipment. The Army had to maintain positive control on every aspect of the operation. There were language and cultural challenges. It is very challenging conducting port operations in Bourgas, Bulgaria. The port stevedores don't have the experience in handling US military equipment and our techniques for lifting vehicles and lashing them to rail cars. It took a couple of days before they understood that this was not Russian equipment.

The Army's use of a large, experienced deployment support team helped the process. This was a fast indoctrination into MTMC. The image some people have of MTMC as being in exotic lands holed up in a hotel could not be farther from the truth.

The work on the Black Sea was another whistle stop for the 953rd Transportation Co. It is just another temporary duty for us in the documentation world. The work is the same whether it is Greece, Bulgaria, Albania or one of a dozen other ports. Different faces, and different places, and new challenges to overcome. The 14th Movements Control Team, Livorno, Italy, handled the onward movement by rail of supplies and equipment from the port to Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia. That is where American soldiers fell in on their vehicles for the motor movement to Kosovo.

It was another story for the helicopters. Military and contract personnel under the supervision of the 2/502 Aviation Battalion, Mannheim, Germany, reassembled the helicopters. The helicopters were then flown under their own power into Kosovo. After several port actions on the Black Sea, the Army is calling the temporary port organization Task Force Bourgas. The Task Force works with the Military Sealift Command and, of course, the 29th Support Group, Kaiserslautern, Germany. The latter handles housing, meals and force protection.

  • East Port: The length of the wharf is 1,965m and the maximum depth is between 24 and 33 feet.. Total number of berths - 14, 10 of them are in operation. Covered warehouse areas - 44,500 sq. m, open warehouse areas - 50,000 sq. m. Vessels up to 25,000 tons can be handled and there is direct connection with the road and railway networks.
  • Bulk freight Port: Total length of the wharf - 750 m. with 5 berths. The maximum depth at berths is 36 feet. Covered warehouse areas - 5 000 sq. m, open warehouse areas - 49 000 sq. m. It handles ships up to 60,000 tons and there is direct connection to the road and railway networks.
  • West Port: The length of the wharf is 890 m and there are 6 berths. The maximum depth at the berths is 36 feet. Covered warehouse areas - 11 000 sq. m, open warehouse areas - 191 000 sq. m. It can handle vessels up to 40,000 tons with direct connection to the road and railway networks.
  • Oil terminal: The length of the wharf is 300 m with 3 berths. The maximum depth at berths is 24 - 25 feet. Capable of handling vessels up to 100,000 tons with direct connection to the road network.
  • Lozovo: Covered warehouse areas - 14,000 sq. m, open warehouse areas - 21,600 sq. m. No connection to the road and railway networks.

Bulgaria has plans for a $300 million expansion of Burgas Harbor, to include new ro-ro, ferry, container terminals, and new facilities for general and bulk cargo. The Japan Fund for Reconstruction and Development provided a $120 million 30-year 2.58 percent interest loan with a ten-year grace period to the Bulgarian Ministry of Transport and Communications for construction of a new container terminal at Burgas. They also initiated a project to improve the breakwater facility in the port of Burgas. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has also provided $300,000 for a feasibility study of a intermodal cargo terminal for the port of Burgas.

Intermodal transportation is a new approach for Bulgaria. It provides freight forwarding and route alternatives. With joint efforts, Sea Land Services, Inc. (USA), the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the Bulgarian Ministry of Transport and Communications recently completed two feasibility studies to establish a rail-truck intermodal terminal to handle ocean containers in Sofia and Burgas.

While Bulgaria currently has no oil pipelines, there are big plans to develop new cross-border pipelines to connect Bulgaria with FYROM (Macedonia) and/or with Greece, both to originate at the Lukoil/Neftochim oil refinery in Burgas, one of the largest refineries on the Balkan peninsula. One plan is being sponsored by the U.S.-based AMBO company to build a pipeline from Burgas west across Bulgaria, FYROM and Albania to the Adriatic port of Vlore. The Trade and Development Agency funded a feasibility study for the Trans-Balkan Pipeline. This could facilitate export to North America and Northeast Europe of Caspian Sea oil carried in tankers across the Black Sea to Burgas. The second pipeline would connect Burgas with the Greek Aegean port of Alexandroupolis. Reportedly, this pipeline is a priority project for Russia (LukOil, Yukos and Gazprom), Greece and the European Union. The estimated cost for the construction of the 312-kilometer pipeline from Burgas to Alexandroupolis is $700-800 million. The estimated cost for the construction of the 900 - kilometer AMBO pipeline via Macedonia and Albania is $1.4 billion.

The Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) fueled the Coalition Forces during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. DESC is a Field Activity of the Defense Logistics Agency. They provide the Department of Defense and other government agencies with comprehensive energy solutions in the most effective and economical manner possible. Two Commodity Business Units supporting these operations are Direct Delivery Fuels and Bulk Fuels; both provide the war fighter comprehensive fuel support in the most effective and economical manner possible.

DESC added Burgas, Bulgaria, on very short notice to supplement en route traffic into Iraq. This involved coordination of additives. The contractors added a line-item at Rhein Mein International Airport to supplement the government-owned contractor-operated (GOCO) facility at Rhein Mein via the commercial airport to support en route traffic. Constanta, Romania, was another location added in the absence of Turkey's support. Several smaller locations were added to provide additional support when the Defense Fuel Supply Points (DFSPs) (fuel storage facilities) were taxed to the limit. Excess Fuel System Icing Inhibitors (FSII) were purchased from an into-plane contractor in the event of potential shortage of FSII. FSII is a jet fuel additive used to prevent the fuel from freezing or jelling up during high altitude flights.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:43:41 ZULU