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JCS Pub 4-01.6 discusses JLOTS in detail. In overview, an ocean vessel can anchor in the stream or offshore. In-the-stream anchorage means the vessel is anchored in protected deep water, such as a harbor. Offshore anchorage is an anchorage off the shoreline in unprotected deep water. From either anchorage location the ship can discharge to lighterage for subsequent discharge to a fixed-port facility, an unimproved facility, or bare beach. Figure 4-1 depicts this type of operation.


Existing port capacities in many areas are probably insufficient to support theater tonnage requirements. This, coupled with the possibility of enemy insurgent activities, shifts the emphasis in planning from large port complexes to widely scattered beach-operations. The senior terminal commander in the theater must continually plan and provide for the opening of new beaches to accommodate increased tonnages to replace the tonnage capacity of port or unimproved facilities that enemy actions have made untenable. Plans should include the proposed location and layout of the area, the type of lighterage to be used, and the task organization needed to attain the desired tonnage capacity. They should also include the route and methods of movement to the area, the construction effort required, communications requirements, and logistical support procedures.

The first step when planning to open new bare beach LOTS sites is to determine the beach areas available. The degree of dispersion that can be attained, directly relates to the daily tonnage requirement and the size and nature of the assigned area. As soon as practicable after the limiting points of the area have been designated, reconnaissance should be made to determine the sites most suitable for operations. Whenever possible, hydrographic surveys should be conducted at proposed beach landing sites. The selection of these sites should be based primarily on the existing capability to accommodate the desired tonnage. Major factors considered in selecting beach discharge sites include tide, surf, beach gradients, bars, characteristics of the bottom and beach surface, anchorage areas, weather, and topographic features.

The commander should not forget that conducting a LOTS operation almost fully depends on favorable weather. Lighterage operations alongside a vessel are also particularly hazardous if more than a moderate sea is running. Heavy surf reduces the amount of cargo brought in by lighters and could suspend the entire operation.

After the initial reconnaissance is completed and the terminal battalions have been assigned to dispersed sites along the coastline, the terminal group commander must ensure that each battalion has the units, equipment, and other support needed for the assigned mission. Beaches ideally suited for LOTS operations are seldom found without prior preparation or alteration. Therefore, some engineering support is usually required to enable landing craft to beach and to provide exits from the beach to discharge areas and the clearance transportation net.

At each bare beach LOTS discharge point, the beach area operations require close attention and supervision. The success of each beach operation depends on the efficiency of cargo operations on the beach itself. Supplies and equipment being brought to the beach must be kept moving across it toward inland destinations as rapidly as possible. A cluttered beach offers a lucrative target to the enemy and hinders cargo movement. Using amphibians for lightering general cargo and containers greatly helps reduce beach congestion.

Employing terminal units over widely separated distances along a coastline requires careful evaluation of the maintenance system supporting a scattered operations complex. When operations are conducted in a dispersed situation, emphasis on organizational maintenance must be increased. Unit maintenance personnel should be well trained. Every effort must be made to fix minor troubles to prevent costly equipment breakdowns. The terminal group SOP should establish the procedure for maintenance support. Floating craft maintenance units supporting terminal operations over an extended length of coastline require mobile marine repair facilities and on-site repair service.

In dispersed beach terminal operations, all terminal units, operating equipment, cargo, and facilities are as widely separated as operational efficiency permits. Personnel, materials, establishments, and activities are spread over a wide area to avoid offering the enemy a concentrated target. Discharge operations are scheduled to limit offering a lucrative target to the enemy to as short a time as possible.

Dispersion of terminal units greatly increases reliance on radio communications for effective command, control, and coordination. Therefore, COMSEC and ECCM become more critical to maintaining reliable communications.

Each two-ship terminal is under the direct operational supervision of a terminal battalion. Each terminal is manned by one terminal service company and lighterage units commensurate with the workload and environment. One or more medium truck companies may also be attached for intraterminal transportation and clearance assistance. Terminal transfer elements may need to help clear excessive cargo backlogs in discharge areas. Harborcraft teams may also be attached as required. A terminal group coordinates the functions of a number of these terminals, dispersed along a maximum of 150 miles of shoreline. Maintenance for the employed lighterage is provided at group level.

In addition to the environmental factors outlined in this chapter, the same planning considerations and operational functions and procedures described in Chapter 3 must be provided for and carried out by the terminal organizations assigned to conduct LOTS operations.


Normally, the terminal commander in consultation with naval authorities initially selects possible beach sites for LOTS operations. This is done from an extensive study of maps and hydrographic charts and from an analysis of aerial reconnaissance reports. A detailed ground and water reconnaissance of the selected area, as thorough as time and the situation permits, finally determines the feasibility of operations at these sites. Aerial reconnaissance helps to verify information obtained from the map reconnaissance. Road nets shown on the map may have been destroyed or made impassable. New roads may have been built. Bridges may have been destroyed or structures may have been built on the beach. Naval authorities must be consulted early in the study so that advice about possible anchorage areas and difficulties and hazards to navigation will be available as early as possible.

The party that conducts the ground and water reconnaissance must include personnel that can advise the terminal commander of various matters. These matters include the following:

  • The engineering effort required to prepare and maintain the area.
  • Signal construction and maintenance required for communication within the beach area and between the beach area and the terminal HQ.
  • Environmental considerations to include the location of beach dumps, transfer points, and maintenance areas.
  • The type of lighterage that could be employed most effectively.
  • The need for and location of safe-haven facilities for lighterage.
  • The location and desirability of anchorage areas.
  • The possibility of using spud (self-elevating, nonpropelled) piers and other special equipment.
  • The vulnerability to enemy attack of the terminal area, its seaward approaches, and its connections with the interior.
  • The proximity and capacity of road and rail networks.

The typical reconnaissance party should consist of, but not be restricted to the following:

  • Representatives of the terminal commander to coordinate or supervise the reconnaissance team and to recommend task organization.
  • The terminal battalion commander and appropriate members of his staff.
  • An engineer officer, preferably from the supporting engineer unit.
  • A signal officer, preferably from the supporting signal unit.
  • Representatives of amphibian units to locate desirable entrances to and exits from the water and transfer points.
  • Representatives of landing craft units to select beach areas, anchorages, maintenance areas, and navigation aids.
  • Representatives of units with special equipment to be used.
  • Naval representatives to advise on anchorage areas, naval support required, and harbor security.
  • US Coast Guard representatives to advise on port security.
  • An MP representative to determine the needs and plan for providing MP support required for traffic control and beach management.

In addition to gauging beach area characteristics, the reconnaissance party must determine if the beach area selected has enough anchorage to accommodate the number and types of ships required to support the planned beach operations. If the naval representative has indicated that the anchorage areas are acceptable to the Navy, they must be examined to determine whether the lighterage to be used can traverse the area between the anchorage areas and the beach. For example, sandbars or reefs just offshore may preclude the use of LCMs, LCUs, or barges in certain areas. They may also require the use of amphibians until a channel can be cleared. Among the salient features to be considered are the following:

  • Depth. For large cargo ships, a MLW of 30 feet and a maximum of 210 feet are required. A FSS requires a MLW of 37 feet. The maximum draft of ships to be discharged and the ground swells dictate the minimum depth.
  • Size. For planning purposes, the anchorage area should be a circle with an 800-foot radius to provide a safe, free-swinging area. This is required for the standard five-hatch vessel. Use the following formula if larger vessels are anticipated in the operation.

2( 7D + 2L) = diameter in feet


D = depth of water in feet
L = length of vessel in feet


A much larger radius may be required for dispersion if operations are being conducted under threat of nuclear warfare or if hazardous materials are included. Bow and stern mooring is not considered desirable in tidal areas because athwartship currents excessively strain mooring gear. Appreciable changes in depth also requires continuous watching of the anchored vessels. The type of offshore bottom also significantly affects how close ships can be anchored to each other. A ship will drag anchor if the bottom is too rocky or slushy.

  • Landmarks. Landmarks, especially those assisting navigation and location of beaches (such as prominent hills) are helpful.
  • Underwater obstacles. Underwater obstacles such as bars, shoals, reefs, rocks, wrecks, and enemy installations that might interfere with the passage of vessels to and from the area should be noted. The degree of interference offered and the amount of work involved in clearing channels should be estimated.

During the reconnaissance, the terminal battalion commander also selects and assigns company areas and frontages, indicates areas of defense responsibilities, and tentatively organizes the AO. Upon completion of the reconnaissance, the findings are analyzed and the most desirable beach areas are selected. Alternate beaches are chosen and listed in order of suitability. The battalion commander submits the selected sites to the terminal group commander with a written plan for implementing operations at the selected beach.


For general planning, beach capacity may be determined by applying the data in FM 101-10-1/1. However, these data are based on average conditions and must be adapted to a specific beach operation. Several factors must be considered to determine the capacity of a particular discharge site. These factors can be divided into the following three groups:

  • Those that limit the discharge rate from the vessel instream.
  • Those that limit the cargo-handling capacity of the beach.
  • Those that restrict the flow through the area because of the nature of the beach and the hinterland.

The group of factors that most limit the quantity of supplies that can be handled determines the capacity of the beach. Beach terminal planning requires making a beach capacity estimate. It involves the same steps that are used in planning for a fixed marine terminal. Table 4-1 and Figures 4-2 and 4-3 provide essential information and definitions relative to this estimation.

Factors Affecting Handling Capacity

Factors affecting cargo-handling capacity include the following:

  • Numbers and experience of personnel available for discharging ships and handling cargo on the beach and in the discharge areas.
  • Type and availability of MHE and transportation equipment for beach clearance.
  • Types and amounts of lighterage available for operations.
  • Enemy's ability to interrupt operations.

Limitations Imposed by Terrain

Most of these factors are self-explanatory, but since beach exits and the nature of the hinterland play such important roles in beach capacity, they are discussed in detail. Possible limitations include the following:

  • The length and width of the beach.
  • Underwater obstacles.
  • The tidal range.
  • The strength and direction of the tidal stream (rip currents and littoral currents).
  • The surf.
  • The gradient of the beach as it affects the landing of lighterage and the movement of supplies across the beach proper.
  • The bearing surface of the beach.
  • The availability and nature of beach exits.
  • The nature of the hinterland.
  • The weather.

Beach Exits

Often the capacity of the road net, from the beach to principal inland areas, limit the capacity of a beach to discharge and clear supplies and personnel to inland destinations. The useful capacity of the beach can never exceed the capacity of the road net. Therefore, an early and detailed analysis must be made to determine the capacity of the existing road net. If the capacity is inadequate, new roads must be built. This requires additional engineer support for construction and maintenance.

The number of exits required varies according to the physical characteristics of the roads, the type and amount of cargo to be handled, and the type of conveyance to be used in beach clearance. Tracked and wheeled vehicles should have separate routes.

The nature of the area next to the beach may limit the number of possible exits form the beach. An otherwise ideal beach may be backed by sand dunes, seawalls, swamps, or other obstacles that hamper beach clearance operations.


In selecting a beach for unloading cargo, the reconnoitering officer must consider more than the beach and its exits. He must consider the availability of a road or rail net or the possibility of building one to tie the beach exits tot he main transportation net. He must also consider the existence of or need for telephone and telegraph lines, radio stations, and power lines. Finally, the availability of inland waterways must be evaluated. If suitable roads exist, thorough reconnaissance should be made to determine their exact physical characteristics. The strength and width of any bridges in a road net are of prime importance in evaluating capabilities or limitations. Since helicopters may be used for clearance operations, the reconnoitering officer should consider a suitable area for establishing a heliport.


The requirement for beach transfer points must be considered during the reconnaissance and their locations should be designated. A desirable beach transfer point should include the following:

  • Be located to the rear of the beach so as not to interfere with shoreline operations.
  • Be on the route the amphibians use to move from and to the water.
  • Be near the clearance route for the beach where cargo trucks moving in the traffic pattern can receive their load without interference with other traffic and still have access to and exit from the transfer points.
  • Be so selected that the amphibians will cross the beach and make it unnecessary to prepare a beach roadway for the cargo trucks.
  • Be near a railhead, if rail is an active mode.
  • Have room for a roadway on either side of the MHE operating at the transfer point so that there is no interference between the amphibian and the cargo truck.
  • Have cranes located on firm, level ground. The crane's longer axis should be parallel to the direction of movement of the vehicles. With the crane in this position, loads can be transferred with the least amount of movement of the boom.


In general, the problems of cargo clearance in beach operations are the same as for conventional port terminals. However, differences in the physical characteristics of the operating areas may require the modification of procedures and the use of different types of equipment. In an ideal situation, clearance transportation capacity equals the discharge capability and cargo is moved through and out of the terminal area as fast as it is unloaded from the ships. However, this balance seldom occurs. Some cargo backlog must be anticipated and provided for by establishing temporary in-transit storage areas. These areas should be near the transfer point used by amphibians to hold cargo that cannot be immediately transferred to clearance conveyances. Cargo unloaded from landing craft that cannot be immediately cleared should also be brought to these in-transit storage areas to avoid congestion and cargo pileup on the beach.

When clearance transportation later becomes available to move this cargo from the in-transit storage areas, terminal service companies will outload cargo from in-transit storage. Should cargo staged in the intransit storage area become excessive, any effort diverted by these units to handle this cargo would impair the unit's ability to keep the lighters moving. If this practice continues, the entire operation stagnates. This problem is solved by temporarily assigning terminal transfer elements (squads, platoons, or companies) to load backlogged or frustrated cargo in the in-transit storage area onto clearance transportation. This maintains the flow of cargo out of the terminal without disrupting the discharge operations at the ship by slowing lighter turnaround.

Temporary in-transit storage areas should be located away from main clearance roads to minimize road congestion and to present less lucrative targets. Roads leading from the main clearance roads to the intransit storage areas must be kept in good condition. Each area should have a separate entrance and exit. If tracked vehicles are to be used as well as trucks and amphibians, separate traffic nets may be needed. The ground should be level, firm, and dry. The surrounding area should be large enough so that in-transit storage facilities can be expanded to meet anticipated maximum requirements.


Traffic control is vital to preventing congestion in the terminal area and promptly clearing cargo to its initial destination. To control vehicle traffic in a beach area, make sure of the following:

  • A sufficient number of drivers, MHE, and supervisors should be available for around-the-clock operations.
  • A one-way traffic system should be established to alleviate congestion.
  • Use of motor transport equipment should be carefully planned for maximum use (see FM 55-30).
  • Vehicles should be loaded to capacity whenever this practice is consistent with cargo segregation requirements.
  • Control procedures should be set up to provide readily available information on the location and current employment of all motor transport facilities. This is done so that equipment or units can be promptly diverted with minimum disruption of the overall operation.


The requirements for clearing personnel, supplies, and equipment from beaches usually exceed available capacity. Careful planning and close supervision are needed to maximize the use of available equipment, personnel, and facilities. Some measures that help to clear supplies and equipment from the beach area include the following:

  • Using amphibians to the maximum extent.
  • Continuously improving the beach (in general) to increase overall operational capacity and efficiency.
  • Planning the handling of peak workloads without disrupting operations.
  • Maintaining close liaison and coordination with cargo transfer points and temporary holding areas so as not to exceed their receiving capacities and yet maintain a near-capacity flow of cargo to them.
  • Separating landing points for amphibians and landing craft to prevent clearance conflict.
  • Holding documentation, records, and reports to a minimum.
  • Locating beach parking areas for MHE and clearance vehicles in areas readily accessible to discharge points.
  • Adopting an enforced traffic circulation plan to avoid conflict in the flow of traffic.
  • Locating bivouac area and messing areas so as to avoid loss of time in moving personnel to and from working points.
  • Adopting alert systems and defense plans to prevent a surprise enemy attack and to enable the terminal to maintain an adequate defense.


During unloading operations, terminal service company personnel should be alert for new ways to expedite cargo movement. Some practical expedients are discussed below.

Each terminal service company operation site should have at least one truck dispatcher when clearance is being done by trucks. The dispatcher uses DD Form 1384 to back up his dispatch slip. The dispatch slip shows the destination of the load. He can thus dispatch loaded trucks immediately, saving time and avoiding the congestion that might result if only one dispatch point were in the battalion area. If movement by convoy is dictated, the formation of convoy serials is expedited due to the faster rate of dispatch of single vehicles to make up these serials (see FM 55-30).


Tactical and logistical shore-to-shore operations may be conducted across or along rivers, between islands, along a coastline, or between a continental land mass and an offshore island. Except for the fact that ocean shipping is not involved, terminal unit functions in these operations are the same as described for bare beach and amphibious operations. In a shore-to-shore assault, terminal organizations are attached to the combat unit conducting the operations. They provide the same support as described in previous chapters. Command elements and relationships in logistical shore-to-shore operations are the same as in conventional marine terminals and in ship-to-shore bare beach LOTS operations. The terminal service company ship platoons work in the loading area on the near shore, and the shore platoons operate discharge points in the objective area. Amphibian and landing craft units provide the lighterage service. Terminal transfer elements may be assigned to clear cargo backlogs.

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