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Seabee Divers Survey Iraqi Piers

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050314-03
Release Date: 3/14/2005 12:51:00 PM

By Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Kelly Preston, Combat Camera Pacific, Bahrain Detachment

UMM QASR, Iraq (NNS) -- Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, Air Det. Alfa Seabees completed a survey of all waterfront facilities at the Iraqi naval base in Umm Qasr March 10.

The project covered piers, a quay wall and all supporting structures, totaling more than 1,000 meters of Iraqi coastline.

"The mission's objective was to collect data for a structural analysis and potential port development," said Lt. Sylvester Adamah, civil engineer operations officer for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet. "The aim is to develop a useable base and a new port for the Iraqis so they can provide protection for the oil terminals. It's a very significant port."

Since last year, the Iraqi navy has received training from multinational forces to protect the offshore Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminals (ABOT and KAAOT), and other infrastructure nodes within their territorial waters. These key infrastructures form the foundation for much of the region's economic growth, stability and prosperity, and can significantly impact the global economy.

The Iraqi navy began performing Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in Iraqi territorial waters alongside coalition maritime forces Oct. 1. Umm Qasr is presently the most operational port in Iraq.

March 6, the 12-man UCT 1 team loaded their gear aboard fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168) and headed to Umm Qasr. There they completed the first mooring of a U.S. Navy ship to an Iraqi pier, and immediately began their work by lowering a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) over the side of Catawba to engage in a "side scan survey" of the piers.

"We used a unique torpedo-shaped device called a 'tow fish,'" said Equipment Operator 1st Class (SCW/DV) Nicholas Gegg. "The tow fish is lowered into the water and then dragged by the RHIB. In an instant, it beams back to its mobile console an image of what is underwater."

Using the tow fish, the divers had a good idea of any obstructions before they even got wet.

Following the side scan survey, divers spent more than 600 minutes underwater in zero visibility and heavy current conditions, inspecting pier support structures (called piles) for corrosion, crumpling and excessive sea growth.

"It made working a lot harder. They had to feel every bit of pile," said Senior Chief Construction Electrician (SCW/MDV) Henry Stark, UCT 1 master diver.

Despite the challenges, UCT 1 completed the project ahead of schedule, finishing the estimated 10-day project in just four days. They also took measurements of the piers and drafted computerized models of the structures.

Embodying their "Can-Do" motto, the Seabees of UCT 1 helped clear the way toward making Iraq safe for future naval operations.

The Iraqi navy provided boat security for UCT 1 divers and Catawba for the duration of the project.

"They did a great job," said Stark.

The Iraqi navy also conducts policing operations on the Iraqi coastline and territorial waters in order to counter terrorism, smuggling, piracy and other unlawful activities.

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