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Maritime Logistics Community News : November 2009
26 NAVY SUPPLY NEWSLETTER SPRING 2009 This is my second stint as the RANLO Bahrain and although the main role of supporting a major fleet unit in theatre has not changed, the fact that the ships are now operating in a totally different body of water has effectively unearthed many new challenges for the Logistic Support Element – Middle East (LSE-ME) to work through. As such, the LSE-ME team along with the ship’s supply department have worked very well together to meet all logistic requirements and challenges in support of operational readiness. The ADF’s logistic modes into and agreed nodes within the Middle Eastern Area of Operations (MEAO) have not transformed to meet the change in operations. Our intra-theatre modes, where we relied on regular desert hawk flights and Replenishment at Sea for Fuel, Stores and Victuals (RAS FSTV) ships are either nonexistent, in the case of helicopter support, or very limited as far as RAS FSTV. Effectively, HMAS TOOWOOMBA (with us akin to them) has had to adjust the resupply program from what was previously an at-sea replenishment for stores and victuals to an alongside one, with far more logistics conducted during port visits than was done by past ship rotations. There simply have not been enough supporting assets in the new area of operations and we have had to work around this. The problems of having limited assets while the ship is underway, specifically for the delivery of stores and food, has increased the workload and associated risk on both the ship and the LSE-ME team. The possibility of failing to meet urgent delivery times or worse still, having goods held up in customs as they cross country borders remains an ongoing concern. For example, port visits are conducted in countries where clearing stores through customs may take several weeks or where contractors have difficulties moving food between countries, due to protection of the local food industry, which is unsustainable for the ship due to poor quality. It is in overcoming the challenges of resupplying the current ship through a variety of means, that we as logisticians have found the outcomes of our efforts most rewarding. Compared to my previous tour, the sheer mass of stores and mail coming into theatre and the limited supply chain available to support the ship, whilst underway, has made what in retrospect was a straight forward job, into one that now requires far more brainstorming and liaison than in the past. Coming up with solutions to move stores outside the usual supply chain and driving vendors to work outside their comfort zones or using other contractors to fill in where ours have faltered. For instance, using another company to move stores over 1,000km within a country, in order to meet a port visit, due to our current prime vendor being too risk averse to do so. TOOWOOMBA has conducted many port visits to places where we have little to no intelligence and the LSE-ME team are having to learn each time we venture into these places. We have sent reconnaissance teams ahead of the ship’s visits to scope out the places and to liaise with the various ports, military and support agencies in order to both prepare for the visits and to develop logistics’ port guides. There are also risks associated with subcontractors in some of these countries, who have been known to lay down their tools and walk off the job, when pushed too hard or not properly managed. Additionally, diplomatic clearances may only be approved on the day of the ship’s arrival, some ports only advise of the berth or anchorage the day prior to arrival and may not have any boats to ferry people ashore if at anchor, others close their anchorages during monsoon season and do not allow boats to move stores offshore, some have no Yokohama fenders and no brows, the list is almost endless. As in the past, we have been fortunate enough to link into the US supply chain and more recently into the UK system, both of whom have enabled us to move stores into countries where we are unable to do so through normal diplomatic means. From here we negotiate different modes to deliver stores to the ship during port visits. Much of the linkage into these support agencies has to do with very good liaison work by all members within the team, in order to meet and build up a position of trust by all parties. This, along with very thorough and early planning, very close management and a little good luck, has meant we have been able to meet all of the operational logistics needs of the ship thus far. Throw into our work routine an increase in the number of people that we now support either transiting or permanently based in Bahrain, along with a change in the prime vendor contract, which now encompasses the provision of food within the port services contract and our work days are very full. All in all, my team continue to thoroughly enjoy the experience, despite long working days, seven days a week and sleepless nights, our days fly by and before we know it, we’re already planning our handover briefs – any takers? Lieutenant Commander Michael Slattery joined the RAN in February 1980. LCDR Slattery’s postings have included CERBERUS, HARMAN, ALBATROSS, SUPPLY, WARATAH, DARWIN, WATSON, SYDNEY, TOBRUK, KUTTABUL, WATERHEN and MANOORA. The latter for which, he achieved the 2008 Fleet Supply Excellence Award for supply and logistics proficiency. He has also served on two operational tours as the Commander of the Logistic Support Element - Middle East, RAN Liaison Officer, during Operations Catalyst (2007) and Slipper (2009) and was the Supply Officer in HMAS MANOORA for Operation Resolute (2008). Logistic Support Element – Middle East Rather than simply regaling you with the hardships and sacrifices of working in the Middle East, I thought it best to try and sell the experience as one of the most rewarding tours for a small team of logisticians. BY LCDR MICK SLATTERY, RAN KARACHI PORT SINGLED UP LSE – ME TEAM (L-R: LS TRANTER, LCDR SLATTERY, CPO THWAITES AND LEUT HARRINGTON).