Air Force contractor rebuilds Iraqi dry dock

  • Published
  • By Marti D. Ribeiro
  • Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence
The rebuilding of the ship lift in Umm Qasr, Iraq, finished another crucial step in the country's reconstruction.

A ship lift is a mechanism used for transporting boats between sea and land, and is used to dry dock and launch ships.

"In short, it's an elevator for ships, lifting them out of the water to the dock elevation so that they can be properly maintained and/or repaired on land and then used for returning the vessel back into the water after the maintenance and/or repairs are completed," said David Kline, project manager with WESTON Solutions Inc.

WESTON is a contractor with the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence at Brooks City-Base, Texas.

Umm Qasr is on the western side of the Al-Faw Peninsula shores and is the only port city in Iraq. It's also home to the new Iraqi coastal defense force, which provides security and enforces international regulations governing the environment and safety at sea.

According to Mr. Kline, the importance of this project is immense as it's necessary to continue with the major task of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. It not only gives the ICDF the facilities it needs to maintain its ships to protect the country, but also as Iraq rejoins world markets the port at Umm Qasr will become a vital resource in expanding the country's economy.

"The ship lift and dry dock is a critical aspect of the naval mission in Iraq," said Matt Martin, AFCEE project manager. "Without a functional lift and dry dock, the ICDF would be unable to perform the proper maintenance and repair of the fleet."

But while the end-result of this very crucial reconstruction project was successful, the rebuilding of the ship lift wasn't always smooth sailing.

WESTON was one of the first contractors in country, mobilizing into Umm Qasr in January 2004 to initiate the development of the new ICDF facility. The contract was modified to rebuild the ship lift in May 2005.

The first step was to disassemble and remove the existing 200-by-50-foot structural platform of the lift, Mr. Kline explained, which meant removing more than 470,000 pounds of structural steel.

"(The materials) were staged on the dry dock for cleaning, engineering analysis and subsequent repairs and reconstruction," he said. "Approximately 35 tons of additional steel were added for structural stability to the existing (materials)."

Besides the volume of material that had to be moved, cleaned and rebuilt, WESTON faced challenges in obtaining new materials and skilled laborers from the Iraqi workforce.

The company remedied these situations by maximizing and rehabilitating the existing structural steel components to the greatest extent possible, procured and shipped custom-lifting equipment from the United States and trained and certified Iraqi workers in the skill of welding.

But even after the ship lift was rebuilt, the work didn't stop, Mr. Kline said. WESTON conducted operational testing of the lift, as well as orchestrated classroom training for Iraqi military members who will run the lift.

Since the completion of the rebuilt ship lift and associated dry dock facilities, more than 15 successful docking and undocking operations have been performed, contributing greatly to the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

"As a result of the extraordinary teamwork between AFCEE, Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, ICDF personnel, WESTON and our Title II contractor, Versar, AFCEE has completed a mission critical project that will help stand up and sustain the new Iraqi navy," Mr. Martin said.

"I'm extraordinarily grateful for the superb work that both (the Iraqi sub-contractor) and WESTON are doing, both in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Marine Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, Expeditionary Strike Group THREE, Northern Arabian Gulf, commander.

"Without your company, and the evident bravery of its employees, the Coalition would not be as far along as it is now," said the general who works closely with the ICDF, WESTON and the sub-contractors who have done more with less than anyone would have a right to expect and in an awfully tough neighborhood.