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SFOR teams ready to take on tons of work

By 1Lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#105, January 24, 2001

Ploce - The frosty morning air nips at the crews in the Port at Ploce where a thousand tons of cold armour and steel await their final departure from the Balkans. Within minutes the engines from more than 70 vehicles roar. Together with over 60 containers of equipment, all has to be registered, loaded, stored and strapped onboard the freight ship Tidero Star. The Multinational Platoon manning the harbour has tons of work to do before the day is over - a day like many others for those manning this important port for SFOR.

A French detachment from the Logistic Battalion in Mostar (BatLog) and an Italian APAF cell from RELOCO man the platoon. The service they can provide to SFOR contributing nations is extensive.
"We can provide all the sea transit operation; reception and tally, packaging (containers, pallets, preparation of vehicles), storage, bring the vehicles near the pier, loading projects, steveadores, lashing and unlashing, and customs and administrative documents", says Capt. Marc Pierrard. He commands the Multinational Platoon, being an expert in running harbours.

"I come from Base De Transit Interarmees in France, a specialised section dealing with all movement of troops and equipment for the French armies", he says. That is a lot of movement, with permanent routes to the Pacific, West Africa, the West Indies, and the Indian Ocean.

"The unit here at Ploce is also permanent, and can, moreover, arrange transit of equipment to and from Ploce by rail", said Capt. Pierrard.
They also provide meals and accommodation for any passengers and units moving through the port. Last year, 6,304 beds were made, and 10,003 meals served to units visiting or transiting through Ploce.
One by one, trucks, APCs, armoured reconnaissance cars, and containers are loaded on to Tidero Star. Chartered by the French, the ship will take home equipment from the departing Battle Group in Mostar.

All in all there are 5,483 cubic metres of cargo, weighing 991,000 kilos. The numbers must be precise. Every single unit has been registered with bar-codes, giving the precise information of weight, measurements, destinations, and which unit it belongs to. As they are rolled on to the ship, the codes are read. Nothing is unaccounted for in Ploce Harbour.
Inside the enormous cargo bay, containers and vehicles are going up and down on great lifts. Everything directed by the French and Italian soldiers.

"This is a big load for us here at Ploce. The challenge is to get enough space for the vehicles", says Lt. Alexandre Charton. He commands the French soldiers in the Multinational Platoon, all from 519 Regiment Du Train in La Rochelle (France). As a sub-unit to Base De Transit Interarmees, they are experts in handling cargo. Not an inch is wasted as containers and vehicles are placed in the cargo bay.

"The noise of the trucks, lifts, ship engine, and the smell of oil, gas, and exhaust makes this a difficult workspace. During the loading chains used to lash the cargo with get heavier and heavier. It is not an easy job for the soldiers, but we are aware of this. Therefore, we have not had any accidents", said Lt. Charton.
Deputy commander of the platoon, Lt. Stefano Picarella, said he enjoys the experience he gains from his work.

"I am a helicopter technician, and not specialised in this specific work like my French and Italian colleagues. Working with them is a great experience."
"We have not a very different way of matching the problems. The French are very into details, having specialised personnel for this kind of work and know the exact procedures, so have we.
"In Italy, I personally am not so specialised in loading and unloading ships. And considering this is my first mission abroad, I will have to learn everything from A to Z about multinational environment," he said, valuing what he has learned from working in Ploce.

The Italian soldiers in the platoon are tasked with all material movement in the port and storage area. They are also responsible for transporting vehicles and containers out to the Italian units all over the Theatre.
In the past, SFOR Shipments in and out was divided between Ploce and Split. But in the future, only three more ships are due to land at Split.
"By the First of March, Ploce will be the only Port for NATO in the Balkans. We can handle shipments for both SFOR and KFOR", says Capt. Pierrard.
NATO also uses Thessaloniki in Greece for shipments to KFOR, but Pierrard foresee a large activity increase in Ploce when Split is shut down.

"Ploce has a good harbour. There is not so much civilian traffic, which lets us use any pier without any problems. Our relationship with the local port authorities is very good. We usually get what we ask for", he stated.
Last year the Multinational Platoon handled 34 ships, unloading 26 and loading 32. A total of 22,226 tons of cargo was moved (130,491 cubic metres), including 1780 vehicles, 1,358 containers, 440 trailers, and 1228 passengers. Their largest single task was loading 2,485 tons on to a French ship, including 139 containers, 201 vehicles, and 60 trailers.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France, Italy
SFOR at Work