By Mitch Chandran, Surface Deployment and DistributionApril 24, 2013
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (April 24, 2013) -- Logisticians in Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's Operation Center put their heads together recently to manage a large cargo movement from Florida to Central America supporting three separate, but simultaneous, joint military exercises sponsored by U.S. Southern Command.
After careful analysis, it became apparent one vessel could do the work of three, saving their customer, U.S. Southern Command, known as SOUTHCOM, $1.2 million in transportation costs.
Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, or SDDC, accomplishes this mission by leveraging the best of U.S. commercial shipping, port, trucking and rail services delivering cargo to every corner of the globe supporting Department of Defense contingencies, exercises and humanitarian aid missions.
This year's exercises in the region were Beyond the Horizon in Panama, Beyond the Horizon in El Salvador, and New Horizons in Belize. The three SOUTHCOM exercises were being held around the same timeframe, making it easier for the planners to streamline deployment and delivery requirements.
"We started the chartering process last year for SOUTHCOM," said Chris Clodfelter, lead for SDDC Command Operations Center's Pacific and Southern Command Team. "We have liner service we can tap into but since the ports we are working through in Central America are not on their regularly scheduled routes, it becomes considerably more expensive to ship cargo there. So the chartering concept provided us a cost savings -- especially since we're combining cargo that would normally be divided up and deployed on three separate vessels."
With a lot of coordination with SOUTHCOM, Military Sealift Command, or MSC, Army South, Air Force South, SDDC's 597th Transportation Brigade and the 832nd Transportation Battalion, SDDC planners were able to get their buy-in for the single charter solution.
"As we were reviewing the requirements for this, Chris and the team realized the three exercises were happening around the same timeframe and that's when the single vessel idea started coming into play," said Maj. Armando Valdez, chief for SDDC Command Operations Center's Pacific and Southern Command Team.
SDDC, working with MSC, chartered the vessel, Ocean Atlas, which is a multipurpose ship able to accommodate the complex stow plan required to support the three exercises. Cargo and containers have to be stowed onto a vessel is a way to allow easy access to offload when multiple ports are involved.
In this case, 217 pieces of cargo consisting of vehicles, containers and breakbulk pallets left Cape Canaveral, Fla., with the first stop in Honduras to pick up an additional 99 pieces.
According to Valdez, prior to their final decision of a one vessel solution, they were looking at using two vessels to support the three exercises. One vessel would carry cargo from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to Panama, then to El Salvador via the Panama Canal. All told, SDDC would have paid about $1.9 million to include canal usage costs of around $400,000.
The second vessel would support the New Horizons exercise with cargo deploying from Cape Canaveral to Belize City at a cost of about $534,000.
Valdez said they are also looking at line hauling (trucking) of equipment between Honduras and El Salvador during the redeployment this summer to avoid the expense and time lost from shipping through the Panama Canal.
Beyond the Horizon and New Horizon exercises are a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South and U.S. Air Force South-planned and led annual humanitarian and civic assistance exercise. The exercises provide construction and medical assistance to partner nations throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. The exercises, which generally take place in rural, underprivileged areas, is a major component of the U.S. military's regional engagement efforts, and it affords a unique opportunity to train U.S. service members alongside partner nation personnel, while providing needed services to communities throughout the region.
SDDC, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, is composed of about 2,400 active and Reserve military and civilian surface transportation experts making it possible for warfighters to have what they need, when they need it.