SAIPAN, North Mariana Islands (Sept. 9, 2015) — In support of the disaster relief efforts in Saipan, a Hawaii dive detachment partnered with the Coast Guard’s 14th District for a required port assessment and certification of Tanapag Harbor, the port of Saipan, which remains partially non-mission capable, Aug. 27.
Typhoon Soudelor left Saipan, a 48-square mile island, with loss of power and water services to more than 45,000 Saipan residents causing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reach out to the Department of Defense for support after all local, state and non-DOD national assets were exhausted.
“In the Pacific we are the only Army dive detachment – we have to be ready to deploy rapidly,” said Spc. Galen Griffith, an engineer diver, assigned to the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
The 7th Dive Detachment has the capability to conduct the initial ground assessment, recertification of the port, structural assessment and repair when the services are requested.
Although the divers function as a small team, they continuously work hand-in-hand with other services making them adaptable wherever they are needed.
“We worked alongside airmen from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to help us with the transportation of personnel and equipment and the Merchant Marines to get us from Guam to Saipan,” said Capt. Troy Davidson, 7th Dive commander. “After arriving in Saipan, the 9th Mission Support Command and the 302nd Army Reserve housed us while the Coast Guard 14th District provided us with dive equipment and assistance.”
Upon arrival, the team assessed the data on the harbor to identify any structural irregularities and report any damage to the Coast Guard’s 14th District, which helps enable transition efforts back to the local government.
“During this dive we saw hard and soft growth on the wall, some holes where the aggregate would fall through structure integrity,” Griffith said. “This means that the water current will come in and wash out the different aggregates, the broken concrete and make the metal rust, causing it to expand and create more cracks and damage.”
Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender with the 14th District, conducted the initial survey of the shipping channel and port and has been working to restore aids to navigation, buoys and lights and cleanup effort within the first week.
The port is accessible and we were able to certify it, Davidson said. We have turned our assessment into the 14th District for further consideration.
As the area begins to replenish its ability to function outside of crisis response, the hope is to turn the assessment over to the local government and allow them to figure out the best avenue for repair.