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Morehead City, NC

The Port of Morehead City is the port of embarkation and debarkation for the Second Division of the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. This base is near Jacksonville and military troops often travel N.C. Highway 24 from Swansboro to Morehead City.

The only Navy-owned facilities in the Morehead City/Beaufort area are 3 LST ramps and a large paved staging area at the southern tip of Radio Island. Commercial traffic includes deep draft vessels (container, general and bulk cargo), Intracoastal Waterway traffic and the menhaden fishing fleets. Deep draft vessels berth at the State Port Terminal, Marsh Island, Morehead City and the privately-owned Aviation Fuel Terminal on Radio Island. Intracoastal Waterway vessels also berth at Marsh Island, north of the road and rail bridges at the barge facility. The menhaden fishing fleets occupy berths along the Front Street foreshore at Beaufort. U.S. Coast Guard vessels berth at their Fort Macon Base at Beaufort Inlet.

Navy use of the port centers on the embarking and debarking of Marine Corp elements based at Camp Lejuene and Cherry Point. The Navy-owned LST ramps at Radio Island are for this purpose. Additionally, by prior arrangement through the Naval Port Control Office with the management of the State Port Terminal, visiting Navy ships may also use deep water berths or the state-owned LST ramps at the terminal. The latter are rarely used due to awkward approaches for vehicles. Deep water berths II through IX are used for loading Navy amphibious ships. Vessels operated by or chartered to the Military Sealift Command berth at the Aviation Fuel Terminal on Radio Island. Finally, small Navy craft may also use the Marsh Island barge facility north of the bridges. Apart from the activities of Military Sealift Command ships, all matters concerning Navy use of the port are the responsibility of the Officer-in-Charge, Naval Port Control Office under the direction of the Commanding Officer, Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek.

Recreational craft abound in the area. At Morehead City, charter vessels for sport fishing and other small craft berth along the south foreshore west of the State Port Terminal. There is a yacht basin on the north shore. Other small craft facilities (e.g., at Peletier and Spooners Creeks) lie along the Intracoastal Waterway in Bogue Sound to the west of the city and also at the north of Radio Island to the east of the city. Beaufort has undergone considerable waterfront redevelopment to provide improved facilities for visiting yachts. The southwest waterfront adjoining Front Street provides alongside berthing and anchorage in the basin.

Morehead City lies behind a long, slender island barrier which separates the marshy lowlands of eastern North Carolina from the Atlantic Ocean between the border with Virginia in the north and Wilmington in the south. Numerous breaks exist in this barrier, through which estuarine and tidal currents flow in response to changes in the levels of the sheltered sounds or the ocean outside. Beaufort Inlet channels are maintained by dredging to provide deep draft vessels access to the commercial port of Morehead City. A subsidiary dredged channel allows fishing vessels and recreational craft to reach the port of Beaufort. The intracoastal Waterway reaches Morehead City from the west via Bogue Sound, then turns north to reach the Neuse River via Adams Creek Canal. Morehead City, Radio Island and Beaufort are linked by road and rail bridges which straddle a large marsh to the north of Radio Island, either side of which lie the dredged channels leading northwards from each port through the shallow sound of the Newport River to Adams Creek Canal.

There is a confluence of drainage currents from the sheltered sounds surrounding Morehead City at Beaufort Inlet. Dredging effort broadly follows the resulting pattern of natural channels. Large tracts of the sounds are nevertheless very shallow which reflects the low elevations of the marshy coastal hinterland. The average elevation of all the land to the east of Adams Creek Canal is below 10 ft above mean sea level and major flooding of Morehead City and Beaufort would occur at water levels of 6 ft above MSL (i.e., only 2 to 3 ft above astronomical Spring High Tide).

Morehead City's south-facing aspect on the marshy promontory of North Carolina exposes it to the onslaught of many recurving tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic, against which it poses a low, slender island barrier. The port's vulnerability to destructive force winds and under certain circumstances, destructive tidal effects, makes it unsuitable as a hurricane haven for both small craft and large ocean-going vessels.

In relation to the needs of deep draft vessels, these facilities are very limited. There are no sheltered anchorages. Commercial tug power consists of 4 tugs ranging in size from 350 to 1400 h.p. and is not considered to be adequate for the needs of the Tarawa Class Navy amphibious assault ship for whom additional Navy tugs should be requested prior to a visit to the port (see Fleet Guide, Morehead City). No drydocking facilities for ocean-going vessels exist locally. The nearest facilities for major repairs to Navy and commercial vessels are at Norfolk and Newport News. Hurricane hawsers and fenders cannot be provided by the port.

The USS America (CV 66) Battle Group and USS Wasp (LHD 1) Amphibious Ready Group Mediterranean deployment was delayed due to the evacuation of Norfolk-based ships caused by Hurricane Felix. The departure of the amphibious ready group ships, USS Whidbey Island (LHD 1), USS Shreveport (LPD 12) and Wasp, originally scheduled for Aug. 25, was delayed. After departing Norfolk, the amphibious ships proceeded to Morehead City, N.C., to onload the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit prior to departing for the Mediterranean.

The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) departed Hampton Roads for a scheduled six- month deployment 14 April 1999. The ARG, composed of the Kearsarge, USS Ponce (LPD 15) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) relieved the USS Nassau (LHA 4) Amphibious Ready Group on station in the Adriatic. After their departure from Naval Station Norfolk and the Little Creek Amphibious Base, the three ships proceeded to Morehead City, N.C., to embark the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) before beginning their transit across the Atlantic.

In August 1999 the 1097th Transportation Co. -- the Army's only composite boat company -- consisting of LCU-2000, LCM-8 and LCU-1600 landing craft -- was inactivated, along with many other units stationed in Panama. Most of the enlisted soldiers were reassigned to boat units at Fort Eustis, Va. The LCU-2000s were to be transferred to a Reserve unit at Morehead City, N.C., and to Fort Eustis.

The Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) delivered tons of aid to victims of Hurricane Mitch. Humanitarian relief supplies arrived in Puerto Cortez, Honduras, on 22 November 19982 aboard the tug Dauntless and barge Lanai, under commercial voyage charter to MSC. The supplies helped the people of Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala rebuild and recover from the devastating effects of the storm. Loaded at the port of Morehead City, N.C., Dauntless and Lanai carried Marine Corps girder bridges that were used to rebuild bridges and roads washed out by Hurricane Mitch's devastating rains. They also delivered baby food, blankets and tarps.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:53:11 ZULU