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Bridgehead visited

By 1lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#103, December 20, 2000

Ploce - As the sun rises in the horizon, Ploce harbour is bursting with activity. German, Italian and French trucks are lined up, forklifts ready to move, men ready to work. All are waiting for the Sea Centurion to arrive. A 12350-ton Royal Navy freight vessel on her way from Split.

The blue, white, and grey ship appears. Two tugs and a small pilot-boat are leading the way. Steadily, the 183 metre long vessel glides through the natural narrow bay surrounding the harbour.

With French, Italian, and German SFOR land-crabs as audience, the sailors skillfully manoeuvre the Sea Centurion around and in to the dock. Like tightly parking a car, she glides into position with narrow precision. As the huge stern door opens, the roar of 18 trucks starting up fills the air. Within a couple of hours 408 tons of equipment must be disembarked. 120 truckloads with containers and bridges, belonging to the Material Management Unit (MMU), moving from North Port in Split to Ploce.

"There will be no problems. I've prepared all my trucks and forklifts", says Capt. Marc Pierrard. He commands the Multinational Platoon manning the NATO Balkans Main Port in Ploce. It consists of a French detachment from the Logistic Battalion in Mostar, and an Italian APAF cell. For this task, reinforced with nine trucks and 22 soldiers from the German/Austrian Transport Company in Rajlovac.
At the site of the new MMU HQ, Mr. George Brown waves his arms, directing the constant flow of trucks coming from the ship.

"I'm trying to identify the loads from a distance, making sure we don't mix the different bridge-parts", he laughs, desperately trying to flag down a truck he just sent in the wrong direction. The MMU has seven different types of bridges at the moment, and can not afford to stack them wrong. Designated as the Balkan Bridge Unit, everything must be in perfectly order.

"This is a very slick operation. Our new neighbours (Multinational Platoon) are doing a lot for us. They are very skilled and professional, and they are going to teach me French when the movement is over", smiles the MMU director.
But that will take time and a lot of work. Still 380 truckloads of equipment await in Split. Currently it seems that all must be moved by road.

"We had hoped to get more on the ship, but time worked against us. For the time being, this seems like the only ship-movement we will get. The rest will be a task for the HELBA-group from the Multinational Integrated Logistic Unit (MILU) at Visoko", says Mr. Brown. 80 Truckloads are planned before Christmas, and the rest 300 between the 3rd of January and the 15th of February.

"The 15th of February is our new deadline. By then, we must be up an running in Ploce. At least this shipment saved the HELBA-group for 120 trips between Split and here", says the MMU director.

Related links:
Engineering - Bridges
Nations of SFOR: Italy, Germany, UK, France