JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The Indo-Asia-Pacific region encompasses nearly 52% of the earth’s surface, and much of the surface is ocean or ocean coastline. Nearly every country in this region has busy ports that serve as a vital entrance for trade and supplies that are critical to their economy and existence.
Also in this region is the highest frequency of natural disasters, such as typhoons and tsunamis, which wreak havoc on those vital ports. In a natural disaster, aid and assistance can’t reach the people that need it until those damaged piers in the ports are repaired. To improve the speed and efficiency of this repair process is the goal of the Port Improvement Via Exigent Repair (PIER) system, as well as developing solutions to reinforce pier structures. These capabilities will support a variety of missions.
The U.S. Transportation Command partnered with U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and Joint Capability Technology Demonstrations (JCTD), for a science and technology demonstration at Pearl Harbor’s Victor Piers, March 3, 2017. Army divers assigned to 7th Dive Detachment, 84th Engineer Battalion, worked with the PIER system to repair one of the pier pilings to simulate the equipment’s use on a damaged pier support. Divers unrolled and attached the several yards of plastic composite sheet, which wraps directly around a damaged pier piling. This sleeve is secured by strong zip ties, while a team above mixes concrete. The concrete is then pumped into the sleeve, which serves as a mold and support for the concrete while it sets.
For more than a year, engineers, researchers, and technologists have been engaged in an effort to develop advanced engineering survey and pier repair capabilities for the military.
“This is a culminating demonstration of a two-week assessment of novel pier repair capabilities, and will be performed by U.S. Army and U.S. Navy divers at Victor 3 pier,” said Kawakahi Amina, an Operational Manager with PACOM Logistics, Plans and Exercises.
The Army 7th Dive Detachment based in Pearl Harbor, brought a team to pair with four Navy organizations: Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 and personnel from Expeditionary Warfare Center, both based Port Hueneme, Calif., along with UCT2 from Little Creek, Va., and a Mobile Dive Salvage Unit from Pearl Harbor.
An earlier demonstration that same day showed the capabilities of a remotely-operated surface vehicle. The Army and Navy engineering teams employed a Multifunctional Assessment Reconnaissance Vehicle (MARV) to capture detailed engineering survey data.
The remotely-operated MARV holds several different sensor arrays and cameras that can rapidly collect data and imagery to identify damaged areas underneath the pier.
“The teams have been learning how to unpack the gear, put the MARV together and getting it operational these past couple weeks - we’ve gotten setup time all the way to data collection down to two hours,” said Frank Sizemore, a lead associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, a company that aided in MARV development.
Following the MARV demonstration of its capabilities to aid in damage assessments, Army and Navy divers demonstrated a rapid pile jacketing technology representing one of four work streams. When fully developed, this capability will enable military engineers to rapidly repair a damaged pier and return the facility to limited service.
“It’s been a great experience training alongside the Navy on this new tech these past weeks,” said Spc. Michael Ritz, an Army diver assigned to 7th Dive Detachment.
“We’ve done pile repairs around Pearl Harbor, but the equipment we’re working with for the demonstration is lightweight, more portable by comparison. The [project leads] have been great about asking us what we thought of it all, getting our feedback,” Ritz added.
The next major milestone involves the design, development and demonstration of a mechanical repair kit for repair or reinforcement of a degraded pier substructure - all the structural elements below the deck.
“We will be able to address a missing or broken pile, damaged bracing, split piles, and even failed or damaged pile caps. The repair kit will enable a repair team to accomplish pile bridging, pile bracing, pile banding and pile cap reinforcement,” Sizemore said.
The JCTD plans to continue its efforts over the next four years, eventually designing and developing innovations including mechanical repair kits and designing superstructure reinforcement that can support heavy offload operations.
The last stage of development, “Spiral 4,” will address mooring and fendering which are situations where a ship puts additional lateral loads on the pier.
“We are also making sure the repaired pier can support a Beach Terminal Unit which is used to transfer fuel to an inland bulk storage facility. Spiral 4 repairs will assure we have the proper strength/capacity, above and below the deck, for each of these items,” Sizemore said.