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U.S. Likely to Remove Gaza Aid Pier Weeks Earlier Than Planned

Aid truck crosses the floating causeway in mild swells, June 2024 (U.S. Army)
Aid truck crosses the floating causeway in mild swells, June 2024 (U.S. Army)

Published Jul 10, 2024 3:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

After a string of weather-related mishaps and security difficulties, the U.S. military will likely remove the temporary pier that the Army and Navy installed on the coast of Gaza earlier this year. It will be relocated to its beachfront mooring one more time on Wednesday in order to wrap up aid deliveries in progress, and may be disassembled and removed when this is completed. 

The shutdown comes at least several weeks earlier than expected, and possibly several months. The floating pier has a narrow operating window of Sea State 3 or less (below "moderate" swells of five feet), and officials at the Pentagon had hoped that the mild conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean would allow it to operate at the unprotected beach site until the end of summer - or at least until the end of this month. 

Those expectations ran into rougher surface conditions on scene: a series of early-season weather systems made it impossible to operate the causeway for more than a week at a time, and one weather event caused damage that required removal and repairs. With every unfavorable weather forecast, the pier has been detached from shore, towed to the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod and moored in sheltered waters until calm conditions return. (The seaport at Ashdod has the capacity to handle aid cargo with commercial efficiency, without the complexity of the $230 million floating pier, but the land border crossing some 30 minutes to the south has not consistently been open for aid trucks to enter Gaza.)

The pier plan also ran into security concerns. After Israeli forces used the beach next to the pier for an operation that caused an estimated 270 Palestinian casualties in collateral damage, some local residents have reportedly associated the U.S.-led aid program as a cover for Israeli military activity. This perception prompted a security review by the World Food Programme, which feared that the local populace would treat the UN personnel affiliated with the pier operation as combatants, potentially leading to militant attacks on humanitarian workers. WFP suspended distribution of the aid for weeks, and the U.S.-led coalition had to stockpile all delivered food at a shoreside storage yard, whether the pier was in operation or out of service. 

WFP resumed delivery of the aid from the staging area to its warehouses in Gaza at the end of June. This shoreside distribution system will help the U.S. complete the last transfers of aid cargo from Cyprus and then wind down the pier project. 

According to ABC, the pier has been in operation for 23 days out of the last two months, since it was anchored on May 17.