A new era in Ploce harbour
Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#144, August 1, 2002
On July 20, the Italian cargo ship 'Maior' registered
in Bari (Italy) arrived in Ploce harbour, Croatia. A new era
in running the harbour's activities has started for SFOR.
From now on, every country will carry out the loading and
unloading operations of their own materials by themselves.
Ploce - During the last seven years a multinational unit made
up of French, German, Italian and Spanish troops from Multinational
Division Southeast (MND-SE) co-ordinated all transit operations.
The unit called Multinational Headquarters (MN HQ) based in
Ploce, and now disbanded, monitored convoys, trains, and above
all, 293 ships. Since December 1995, some 62 trains and more
than 24,000 vehicles have been driven through the harbour.
The Maior is the first ship that has arrived in Ploce as an
entirely national matter. The unit in charge of that task
was GETRA Platoon. GETRA is the Italian acronym for Transit
Operations, and it is a platoon co-ordinated by the Italian
Battle Group (IBG). GETRA Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Attilio Tarallo:
"The structure of the unit is one team at the Sarajevo
Airport, and another one in Ploce harbour. Until now, we were
involved in multi-national work here in Ploce, providing to
MND-SE's Headquarters a team of APS-type lorries, these are
the Italian type of lorry that can carry containers by itself,"
Tarallo added: "We are 40 people strong at the harbour.
Among us, the strongest team is made up of drivers. They can
drive every kind of vehicle that comes on board; any type,
tracked or wheeled, of the IBG. Other teams work inside the
ship, they unlatch or latch every piece of equipment on the
ship. We will follow all the procedures that local authorities
point us, as well as each SFOR standard operating procedure
(SOP) within the harbour area," specified Tarallo.
At the quay
The Maior looked up the quay at the harbour full of ships
driven by the pilots of Ploce. The ship with its yellow hull,
sailed under blue skies, surrounded by green hills bordering
the harbour, a colourful landscape on a sunny morning. The
vessel is a civilian one that the Italian Government rented
in substitution of others from the Italian Navy that is currently
involved in other operations in Kosovo or Afghanistan.
The ship brought the equipment that will allow the 7th Alpine
Regiment to accomplish its task. The 7th Alpine Regiment has
replaced the 14th Alpine Regiment as the base of the IBG,
settled mostly in Sarajevo and Rogatica.
As soon as the ship was secured with ropes, the stern door
opened and the first soldier that went on board was Tarallo,
accompanied by local police and customs agents. After the
official party checked the paperwork of the freight, the activity
of the men began. They moved up to the ship deck and down
to the bay, quickly and accurately. Giving the appearance
of an orchestra's director, WO1 Maurizio Ariano stood up facing
the ship: "My task here is to control the unloading and
loading of any vehicle or container. I'll remain at this point
to co-ordinate every movement through other non-commissioned
officers," he said.
Master Sgt. Franco Piccirillo was in charge of the ship's
bay: "I'm responsible with my team of unlatching or latching
all vehicles in the bay. The heaviest and largest vehicles
travel in the bay such as the recovery tank 'Leopard' (54
tons), or the Light Armoured Vehicle 'Centauro' (25 tons).
It is a hard job because of the heat and smoke coming from
the vehicles," he explained.
On the deck some 20 light vehicles and all the containers
could be seen. That was the area of responsibility for Sgt.
1st Class Enzo Meli. "We deal here with not as many vehicles
as on the bay. However, the movement of every container requires
an exercise of co-ordination between us and the driver of
the lorry who has to carry the container," Meli explained.
While a number of vehicles were coming out of the bay, others
were coming up into the deck: someone had to be in charge
of these movements. Sgt. 1st Class Luca Ricardi dealt with
the matter. "I guide each one of the APS lorries (containers
carriers) from the area outside the ship to the place where
the containers are waiting to be transported on the deck.
Another NCO (Meli) and his team carry out that operation,"
More than 760 tons were unloaded from the Maior, and almost
the same amount was loaded. The process of getting so many
vehicles and containers out of the ship was fast. Vice versa,
it was a slower operation. All lorries carrying containers
were driven in reverse up to the deck ramp. Thanks to the
experienced drivers of the GETRA platoon it was not a very
complicated process. Besides, all kind of vehicles to be loaded
were brought forward to the dockside after passing across
the decontamination area. Every vehicle was fitting in the
ship to include tanks, armoured personnel carriers and lorries,
the assembly of these vehicles gave the appearance of a jigsaw
According to the personnel who arrived on the ship the ships
course was calm. "We spent 12 hours travelling from Monfalcone,
northern Italy, to Ortona, on the Adriatic coast of Italy,
and another 11 hours to reach Ploce. I like to travel by ship
because it is something different. Furthermore, the food is
very good," said Cpl. Alfonso Gismondi, a troop who has
spent three tours in Bosnia and Herzegovina, always arriving
For other soldiers, such as Lance Cpl. Enrico Fazzi, the trip
was longer. He is part of the Cavalry Squadron of the IBG,
cavalry troop of the 8th Lancers of Montebello Regiment. "It
is my first tour here, and as a crew of a Centauro I travelled
with my armoured vehicle first by train from Rome to Ortona
harbour, and then on this ship. It was a great experience,"
At last the equipment of the 14th Alpine Regiment has gone
back home. The ship arrived at 8:30 a.m. and departed at 8:30
p.m. that evening. Twelve hours of hard work for the men of
the GETRA platoon. More than 180 vehicles and nearly 70 containers
moved out of, or into, the ship within the allotted time.
Nothing significant to report. Good job, chaps.
Nations of SFOR: Italy
SFOR at Work