KOLONIA, Pohnpei – Sailors assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2, Construction Dive Det. Alpha, completed a recompression chamber inspection and maritime infrastructure assessment of the Pohnpei Harbor and Kapingamarangi Atoll, May 7, as part of Pacific Partnership 2019.
The assessment, which began April 16, will help maintain and expand the harbor port in Pohnpei and improve navigation safety in both Pohnpei and Kapingamarangi Atoll.
“We came to Pohnpei for Pacific Partnership 2019 to inspect the faces of the wharf in the Pohnpei Harbor and do multiple hydrographic surveys, including surveying both the harbor in Pohnpei and Kapingamarangi Atoll,” said Construction Electrician 1st Class Daniel Lehne, the project supervisor.
Capt. Randy Van Rossum, mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2019, spoke to the PP19 common goal of creating a safer environment for future disaster preparedness.
“I am confident that the planning and hard work we’ve invested thus far will show in our successful collaborative efforts for a long-lasting impact here in Micronesia,” he said.
The UCT 2 Sailors used a single-beam hydrographic survey to create a map of the different water depths along the Pohnpei Harbor and the channel in Kapingamarangi Atoll.
Lehne mentioned that the channel in Kapingamarangi Atoll is currently not only very narrow, but also has a very difficult 90-degree turn. The hard turn and the narrowness prevent larger vessels from transiting during increased sea states.
“The surveys we completed will allow us to formulate a calculated plan using [precision placement of] explosives and other dredging techniques to widen the channel, making it a much safer passage for local ferries and the boats bringing supplies to the atoll,” said Lehne.
The UCT 2 team also performed a wharf inspection at Pohnpei Harbor using specialized equipment to test the current thickness of the metal wall in the wharf face. The measurements taken will be used as a baseline measurement for future inspections to help track the deterioration of the metal on the face over time.
“We first began by training the Pohnpei port security divers on how to inspect their wharf because it has not been inspected since the 70s,” said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Philip Wall. “We were able to show them underwater testing techniques using an ultrasonic thickness tester and a bathycorrometer to test metal thickness and cathodic protection.”
Wall further explained that learning how to perform the wharf inspections would allow the port security members to maintain a safe wharf and eliminate the need of outside assistance to perform such crucial inspections.
This subject matter expert exchange is a cornerstone of Pacific Partnership, which aims to empower nations to improve their infrastructure and ability to respond to disaster emergencies.
The UCT 2 team also inspected a local recompression chamber at the Pohnpei State Hospital that has been nonoperational since 2015.
“We went to the hospital and did a walkthrough of the chamber,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ryan Kitchens. “We had a checklist and discovered all the deficiencies. We developed a plan alongside the hospital manager to get the chamber operational and help save lives.”
“We put a lot of effort into everything we did working with the locals,” affirmed Lehne. "Instead of just completing another job, we became friends with a lot of the people here – we showed them how we do things so that they can continue doing those operations to make this a safer, more resilient place.”
Pacific Partnership, now in its 14th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Each year, the mission team works collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific.