KOLONIA, Pohnpei, Micronesia - U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2, with Pohnpei port security divers, conducted a subject matter expert exchange involving a maritime infrastructure assessment of the Pohnpei Harbor and Kapingamarangi Atoll, May 7, as part of Pacific Partnership 2019.
The assessment’s goal, which began April 16, was to maintain and expand the harbor port in Pohnpei as well as improve navigation safety in both Pohnpei and Kapingamarangi Atoll in order to empower Micronesia to improve their infrastructure and ability to respond to disaster emergencies.
Construction Electrician 1st Class Daniel Lehne, the project supervisor, stated the reason for the visit to Pohnpei for PP19 was to inspect the faces of the wharf in the Pohnpei Harbor and conduct multiple hydrographic surveys, including surveying harbors in Pohnpei and Kapingamarangi Atoll.
“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.”
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.
“We were able to share knowledge, improve infrastructures and create friendships, all adding to the overall mission that provides disaster risk reduction opportunities to assist nations in disaster preparation,” said Van Rossum.
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 discussed the difficult 90-degree turn and how the narrowness of the channel in Kapingamarangi Atoll prevents 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 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 exchanging knowledge with 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.
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 to conduct 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 restore the chamber to help save lives.”
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.