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Terminals are key nodes in the total distribution system that support the commander's concept of operation at all levels of war and through the range of military operations. They provide loading, unloading, and handling of cargo and personnel between various transportation modes. When linked by modes of transport, they define the transportation structure for the operation. Force projection missions require early identification and establishment of terminals. A well-conceived plan assures that terminals can support the deployment, reception, and onward movement of the force and its sustainment. Crucial to the execution of the operation is the assignment of the right personnel, cargo, and material handling equipment at each terminal. ITV of material moving through the transportation system also provides the CINC with information pertaining to location and final destination of all cargo.

The Army is required to function across a range of operation from peacetime through conflict to war (see FM 100-5). Terminal operators must be able to operate in every TO. Terminals will be vulnerable to air and missile attacks, especially if US and allied forces have not established air superiority and sea control. They may also be subject to attacks by unconventional forces and to sabotage, terrorism, mining, espionage, and chemical or biological attacks. Whatever the level of the Army operation, terminals will remain a critical piece to ensure continuous movement of personnel and cargo.


The two main categories of Army terminal operations consist of marine terminal operations and inland terminal operations. These are described below.

Marine Terminals

Marine terminals are classified into three types of facilities. These facilities include fixed-port, unimproved, and bare beach.

Fixed-port facilities. Fixed-port terminals are an improved network of cargo-handling facilities designed to transfer oceangoing freight. These terminals are located worldwide. At these facilities, deep-draft oceangoing vessels berth themselves along a pier or quay and discharge cargo directly onto the apron. Most cargo is moved into in-transit storage areas to await terminal clearance. Selected cargo may be discharged directly to land transport. The type, size, number, and location of military marine terminals selected for use, dictate the number and types of units needed to sustain theater support requirements. Using small or geographically dispersed terminals may be necessary for flexibility and survivability. However, this creates a greater need for command and control organizations. A fixed-port facility operated by a HN under contract, may only require a contract supervision team (TOE 55-560LC). A similar facility operated as a military marine terminal, may require a terminal battalion (TOE 55-816L). Fixed-port facilities are designed for oceangoing vessel discharge operations and port clearance. These facilities have sufficient water depth and pier length to accommodate deep-draft vessels. They also have highly sophisticated facilities, equipment, and organization to effectively support cargo discharge and port clearance operations.

Direct pierside discharge is used whenever possible because of its efficiency and fewer military resource requirements. It most effectively uses personnel and equipment. It is the most practical way to discharge large equipment and large volumes of containerized cargo. Its effectiveness depends on the inland transportation net's ability to clear discharge and cargo. Equipment needed for direct pierside discharge operations varies with the nature of the cargo and the type of vessel being worked.

Generally, TOE authorized to terminal service companies is sufficient to conduct general cargo operations (container and break-bulk). Since this type of operation handles large volumes of cargo and containers, careful planning is essential.

Unimproved port facilities. An unimproved port facility is a site not specifically designed for cargo discharge. It does not have the facilities, equipment, and infrastructure characteristic of a fixed-port facility. The predominant characteristics of an unimproved port facility are insufficient water depth, insufficient pier length to accommodate oceangoing cargo vessels, and inadequate clearance network. As a result, shallow-draft lighterage must be used to discharge oceangoing vessels anchored in the stream. Other facilities may be available, but they are generally inadequate for cargo discharge operations on a scale associated with a fixed port. In most instances, US Army terminal service units using equipment organic to their TOE, operate unimproved port facilities. These terminals are established or used when developed fixed-port facilities are not available or are inadequate to support the workload.

Bare beach facilities. A bare beach facility best fits the perceived definition of a LOTS operation. In a bare beach facility, Army lighterage is discharged across a beach. Normally no facilities, equipment, or infrastructure are available to support cargo loading, discharge, or port clearance operations. The terminal service and watercraft units must rely exclusively on equipment organic to their TOE or from engineer support units. Beach terminals require specifically selected sites where lighterage cargo is delivered to or across the beach and into marshaling yards or onto waiting clearance transportation. Landing craft, amphibians, and terminal units are used in a beach operation under the command and control of a terminal battalion. The same basic cargo-handling functions performed in a fixed port are the mission requirements at the beach terminal. However, beach operations are conducted under less than desirable conditions and usually require significant engineer support.

Inland Terminals

Inland terminals include the following types of terminals:

  • Air.
  • Motor transport.
  • Inland waterway.
  • Rail.

Inland terminals provide cargo transfer facilities at interchange points between air, rail, truck, and water transportation nets. They also provide these facilities from connecting links between these modes when terrain and operational requirements cause a change in carrier. Chapter 7 discusses inland terminal operations.

Marine terminals and inland terminals may be further identified by the type of cargo they are designed to handle. The Army also operates marine and inland POL terminals in cooperation with the QM corps. However, this manual does not address these operations. Figure 1-1 shows the types of terminals and their subclassifications.


General Cargo Terminals

Large, covered, in-transit sheds on the pier with a working apron between the ship and in-transit sheds, characterize general cargo marine terminals. There may be one or several shore cranes. However, many general cargo terminals depend on self-sustaining cargo vessels to discharge most of the cargo. These terminals are best equipped to handle heavy lift or special lift cargo. General cargo terminals are found in developing countries where the volume of traffic or the lack of complex facilities prohibit the expansion of specialty terminals. Fixed ports, unimproved ports, and bare beach sites can handle general cargo. They are identified as general cargo fixed ports, general cargo unimproved ports, or general cargo bare beach sites. General cargo terminals specialize in break-bulk operations where cargo is handled as individual pieces of freight such as pallets, boxes, or bales. These terminals can also discharge containers. However, the containers must be handled as a special lift, outsize, or heavy cargo. Container stacking and marshaling areas are normally small and MHE is inadequate for container handling; therefore, container productivity rates are not high.

Container Terminals

Container terminals are specialized facilities designed for uninterrupted, high-volume flow of containers between ship and inland transportation modes, and vice versa. Specialized, largely non-self-sustaining vessels that are unloaded by high productivity industrial equipment, service these terminals. These terminals may have facilities to consolidate break-bulk cargo into containers. An efficient container terminal equipped with gantry cranes can usually discharge and back-load a non-self-sustaining containership in 24 to 48 hours. In overseas areas, HN civilian personnel operate established container terminals during peacetime and are expected to continue to operate them during war. If the terminals are available, but the local civilian work force or the industrial facilities are not, an Army terminal service company (container/break-bulk) (TOE 55-827L) can operate the facility.

Although containers can be moved through an unimproved port or bare beach facility, productivity is adversely effected. When used alone, container terminal applies to a fixed-port facility specifically designed for container operations. Unimproved container port and bare beach container port only describe the predominant configuration of the cargo transiting those ports. Their names do not imply that the port is specially designed to handle containers.

RO/RO Terminals

A RO/RO terminal is another specialized facility designed to handle cargo on tracks or wheels. A RO/RO terminal consists of the following:

  • Deepwater berth.
  • Centralized management cluster.
  • Terminal in- and/or out-processing facilities.
  • Large, open controlled parking area.

The key element of the RO/RO terminal is that all cargo remains on wheels throughout the terminal transit cycle. Vessel turnaround times vary according to the size of the vessel and the quantity of cargo. Complete discharge and back-loading can normally be done in 18 to 36 hours. The productivity of RO/RO terminals depend on the cargo rolling off the ship, through the terminal and related processing, and onto final destination. RO/RO operations at an unimproved or bare beach facility are not as efficient as at a fixed-port operation. During fixed-port operations, vessels are discharged directly to land rather than to lighterage. A RO/RO terminal is a fixed-port terminal.


The combi-terminal provides a combination facility that can handle containers and conventional cargo in the same area. At pierside, such facilities frequently feature conventional cargo cranes (8 to 16 tons) and a large capacity (60-ton) container gantry crane. At landside, an overhead gantry crane services an open air container storage area with related equipment such as yard tractors and straddle carriers. Typically, extensive open-air and closed storage areas exist for general cargo operations. The combi-terminal's advantage is that both types of cargo can be handled efficiently at a single location without shifting the vessel from a container berth to a general cargo berth to discharge the vessel.

When dealing with terminal operations, transportation planners" must carefully consider the cargo discharge capabilities of available facilities. Combi-terminals are ideal for Army terminal operations. However, if a combi-terminal is not available, planners must tailor the port support resources to meet terminal and cargo characteristics.


Amphibious, shore-to-shore, and riverine operations are special operations in which terminal operations play an integral part. They are not terminal operations in and of themselves. FM 55-50 has more information on amphibious, shore-to-shore, and riverine operations.


The command element in the COMMZ is the TA HQ. It provides an integrated support system for subordinate organizations. Its operational area extends from the marine terminals of the theater to the rear boundary of the corps. It thereby provides the necessary link between the combat force and its source of manpower and material replenishment. The TA is organized with four mission commands and a variable number of TAACOMs.

The TA commander is an organizer, supervisor, planner, and coordinator. He decentralizes authority for combat and CSS operations to his four subordinate functional commands (see Figure 1-2).

The TA TRANSCOM, one of the functional commands, supports TA requirements (see Figure 1-3). It may include groups, battalions, companies, and teams of the 55-series TOE. The TRANSCOM is the principal Army transportation HQ in the theater. Although located in the COMMZ, it provides theaterwide mode operations required to provide an integrated transportation system. The TRANSCOM provides for the movement of personnel replacements and supplies at shipside, at air terminals, or at rear area depots. It delivers them as far forward as possible toward the CZ while minimizing unloading, reprocessing, rehandling, or transshipping at intermediate points.

The senior terminal HQ under the TRANSCOM is a terminal group. It commands up to six terminal battalions based on the operation. The transportation terminal battalion is the basic operating HQ in the terminal structure. It commands each marine terminal in the theater.

Transportation Composite Group

The transportation composite group (TOE 55-622L) is normally responsible for all terminal operations within a specified area. When the size and complexity of the theater requires two or more transportation composite groups, a TRANSCOM assumes responsibility for all theater terminal operations. The composite group, when subordinate to the TRANSCOM, is responsible for assigned terminal operations.

Mission and assignment. The HHC, transportation composite group, provides command and staff planning for units employed in transportation service activities that support an independent division-size force or a two-division size separate corps force. The group is normally assigned to a support brigade that supports an independent force.

Capabilities. The transportation composite group can plan, control, and supervise the activities of attached air, motor, terminal service and/or cargo transfer, rail, and watercraft transportation units required to support an independent force. The transportation composite group also provides a nucleus organization for the development of a TRANSCOM during initial stages of a logistical base build-up. The group can command two to seven transportation battalions with a combination of units to support all or selected modes of transportation requirements.

Functions. The transportation composite group depends on appropriate functional commands of the TA for medical, signal, finance, legal, and personnel administrative services. The HHC, transportation composite group also does the following:

  • Manages military and civilian personnel.
  • Administers labor management policies with respect to non-US civilians and employees.
  • Executes policies regarding non-US civilian labor and maintains coordination with appropriate civil affairs.
  • Collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information and supervises intelligence training and security and intelligence programs.
  • Prepares SOPs, directives, and plans for installation and area security; and area damage control within assigned areas.
  • Coordinates these plans with subordinate commanders and adjacent commands or activities.
  • Prepares current and long-range plans, procedures, policies, and programs pertaining to operations and functions for all modes of transportation required to support the independent force or TO.
  • Prepares SOPs, directives, and plans to interpret and implement environmental considerations IAW SOFA and US environmental regulations.
  • Selects and allocates units by types and numbers required to support the mission of the transportation composite group.
  • Inspects units, installations, and activities of subordinate commands.
  • Assists subordinate units with training plans and programs. Monitors training activities of subordinate units.
  • Develops plans to move personnel and cargo through the transportation mode terminals operated by subordinate units.
  • Coordinates with the MCC to manage and clear all modes of transport operations supporting the force or theater.
  • Develops requirements for communications and ADP systems service required to support operations of the group and subordinate units.
  • Procures material and services locally, particularly contract services, to support operations of the multi-modal terminals and transport operations supporting the independent force or theater.
  • Develops SOPs, directives, current and long-range plans, procedures, policies, and programs in the logistics areas pertaining to supply and maintenance programs and activities in subordinate units. Helps units obtain and coordinate support services with the responsible units or elements.
  • Manages maintenance, to include developing appropriate policies, procedures, and operational instructions relative to maintenance and safety activities for subordinate units.

Transportation Terminal Battalion

The transportation terminal battalion (TOE 55-816L) is the basic command and control HQ for theater terminal operations. It is the normal command element for each two-to four-ship marine terminal. It is the key terminal organization supporting amphibious operations. It is also the command element in inland waterway operations (see Chapter 5).

The terminal battalion is a flexible organization. Its components vary according to the particular requirements of each of its diversified missions. Tailoring is done by modifying the number and types of units attached for each task. In addition to the terminal-type units, transportation truck companies and certain nontransport units may be attached to the terminal battalion to meet specialized mission requirements.

Mission and assignment. The HHC, transportation terminal battalion commands units operating marine terminals. The transportation terminal battalion is assigned to the TRANSCOM. It is normally attached to a transportation terminal group or a transportation composite group. It may also operate separately under the supervision of a TRANSCOM.

Capabilities. The transportation terminal battalion can command two to seven transportation terminal-type units. These include terminal service, terminal transfer, boat, amphibian, or harborcraft. It can command the equivalent of a four-ship terminal in an established port facility or a two-ship terminal in a beach operation.

This unit depends on the personnel service company (TOE 12-467L) for personnel administration. It depends on area medical services for unit level medical support. It also depends on appropriate teams from the finance corps (TOE 14-403L) for finance services.

Functions. The HHC, transportation terminal battalion functions are as follows:

  • Commands units conducting marine terminal operations.
  • Operationally controls loading, unloading, and cargo transfer operations.
  • Supervises documentation activities of the battalion and maintenance of ship's files.
  • Determines the estimated workload and transportation. Ensures that necessary transport equipment is available.
  • Assists and advises subordinate operating units concerning identification, segregation, and documentation of cargo, either aboard ship or on shore.
  • Ensures subordinate units operate IAW appropriate federal, state, local, and HN environmental laws.
  • Consolidates requisitions and procures supplies and equipment for subordinate units.
  • Conducts maintenance inspections of vehicles and equipment.
  • Exercises staff supervision overall maintenance, supply, equipment, evacuation, real estate, safety policies, environmental policies, and food service activities of the battalion.
  • Provides wire communications and message center service for communication with higher HQ and with subordinate units of the battalion.
  • In the absence of a transportation contract supervision team (TOE 55-560LC), supervises contracting operations supporting terminal operations.
  • Reviews intelligence data to assess impact on operations and to allow defensive measures.

The HQ company of the transportation terminal battalion may consolidate some of the functions of subordinate units, such as MHE operations and documentation. Consolidated operations, under some circumstances, provide better allocation, management, and control of scarce skills and resources.

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