US aid pier to be moved from Gaza for repairs after damage from rough seas

The JLOTS pier may not be operational for another week.

May 28, 2024, 4:38 PM

The flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza over the U.S. Army's temporary Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) system has been paused after rough seas Tuesday caused parts of the pier to detach requiring repairs that will take it out of operation for at least a week, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

"Due to high sea states in the North African weather system earlier today, a portion of the Trident pier separated from the pier that is currently anchored into the coast of Gaza," Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon's deputy press secretary, told reporters. "As a result, the Trident pier was damaged, and sections of the pier need rebuilding and repairing," she said.

The specific part of the pier that broke off from the causeway is the larger platform where small Army vessels unloaded the trucks that would be driven onto the causeway anchored to the beach in Gaza towards a marshaling area where aid is transferred to other trucks for distribution inside Gaza by the United Nation's World Food Program.

The pier will be removed from its place near the Gazan coast and towed back to Ashdod, Israel "over the next 48 hours," where Singh said U.S. Central Command will make repairs.

A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Gaza coast, May 19, 2024.
U.S. Army Central via Reuters

"The rebuilding and repairing of the pier will take at least over a week," Singh said, adding that after repairs, it will need to be re-anchored to the Gazan shore.

The damage was attributed to "an unfortunate, unique pattern of events with high seas and another storm that came in that caused the JLOTS to become inoperable during that time," said Singh.

The mishap was the latest setback for the JLOTS system which was expected to serve as a maritime corridor for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. U.S. officials have stressed that JLOTS can only partially meet the need to flow aid into Gaza noting that the full opening of the land routes into Gaza is what is needed most.

"To date, over 1,000 metric tons have been delivered from the pier to the marshaling area for onward delivery by humanitarian organizations and into the hands of Palestinians," since the JLOTS system became operational on May 17.

U.S. officials had described a "crawl, walk, run" scenario to describe how the pier's operations were always intended to begin slowly and then ramp up as more international aid arrived from Cyprus where it is being gathered for shipment to Gaza.

The sea conditions in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Gaza have already caused issues for the U.S. Army's temporary pier system in the weeks since it arrived in the eastern Mediterranean.

PHOTO: Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before arriving on the beach on the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2024.
This image provided by the U.S. Army shows trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before arriving on the beach on the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2024.
Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/U.S. Army via AP

Over the weekend, U.S. Central Command confirmed that four small U.S. Army vessels involved in the transport of cargo from sea to the 1,500-foot causeway attached to a beach in Gaza had broken free as a result of rough seas.

"The vessels broke free from their moorings and two vessels are now anchored on the beach near the pier," said a statement issued on Saturday. "The third and fourth vessels are beached on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon. Efforts to recover the vessels are under way with assistance from the Israeli Navy."

At the time, CENTCOM said that the Israel Defense Forces would support the recovery efforts near the pier and that the pier remained fully functional, but as of Tuesday Singh said that only one of the four vessels had been recovered.

The rough seas off of Gaza had earlier led to delay in the initial deployment of the JLOTS systems, forcing the U.S. military to eventually set it up in calmer seas off of Ashdod, Israel, before moving it down to waters off of Gaza.

It is unclear whether this latest setback will lead to consideration of other alternative ways of transporting the aid from Cyprus into Gaza though Singh said that while the pier is being rebuilt aid from Cyprus will be stockpiled onto a U.S. ship offshore so it can be quickly transported to Gaza via JLOTS once it is operational in a week's time.

The JLOTS system is expected to cost $320 million for three months of operation, but Singh said the Pentagon had not put "an end date" on how long it would be operational off of Gaza.

"We're going to continue to operate this temporary pier for as long as we can in terms of other routes or ways for the aid to get in," said Singh.