UK Military May Supply Truck Drivers for the Maritime Aid Pier in Gaza

U.S. Army and Navy personnel install a temporary Trident Pier for a JLOTS exercise (U.S. Army file image)
U.S. Army and Navy personnel install a temporary Trident Pier for a JLOTS exercise (U.S. Army file image)

Published Apr 28, 2024 6:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The White House has pledged that there will be no American boots on the ground when a new military aid pier begins operating in Gaza - but there might be British boots, according to the BBC. 

The U.S.-led aid operation plans to use a floating pier to conduct joint logistics over the shore (JLOTS) delivery of food aid from sealift ships. After months of conflict and tightened Israeli border controls, Gaza is short on food, and aid groups have warned of the risk of famine. As Gaza has no significant port infrastructure, a joint U.S. Army / U.S. Navy team will install a floating modular causeway extending out from a beach in Gaza. Cargo will be offloaded from sealift ships onto a receiving barge out at sea, then transferred from the barge onto shallow-draft vessels, and then delivered onto the floating causeway for final-mile trucking into the Gaza Strip. 

That final mile is a security challenge for the White House, which has pledged that no American forces will be involved in any shoreside components of this operation. The receiving and distribution site for the pier recently came under mortar fire, possibly targeted at nearby Israeli troops. Critics of the aid plan have warned that it will be an opportunity for the terrorist group Hamas to attack American servicemembers.

The UK military is discussing the option of dispatching troops to handle this "wet boot" element of the delivery operation, officials told BBC. They would drive aid trucks down the pier, onto land and over to a nearby distribution hub in a closed circuit. No decision has yet been made, and the plan has not yet been forwarded to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the sources emphasized. 

Using British forces to drive the trucks down the pier and onto the beach could solve a political dilemma for the White House. American personnel would remain at sea at all times; a trusted partner would operate alongside U.S. forces; and Israeli troops would remain at the periphery, reducing the appearance of association with the Israeli military and its operation in Gaza - a controversial topic for President Joe Biden's political coalition. 

The UK is also deploying a Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphib to waters off Gaza in order to provide floating accommodations for the hundreds of U.S. troops who are constructing the aid pier. RFA Cardigan Bay is based in Cyprus and brings considerable amphibious capability to the mission. She has a floodable dock at the stern and a large flight deck, giving the crew multiple options for moving supplies to shore. 

U.S. Army and Navy personnel are already on board to set up a command post for the operation, according to Capt. Simon Herbert (RFA), the ship's commanding officer.