Story by MCC Matthew White, 30th Naval Construction Regiment Public Affairs
CHUUK, The Federated States of Micronesia – Sailors and Seabees from the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 conducted an underwater demolition blast to remove a hazard to navigation at the Chuuk Main Cargo Wharf, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Sept. 9.
The controlled demolition removed a shallow shoal and will improve the safety of ships navigating in and out of the port. Following a bathymetric survey of the demolition site, the blast lowered the depth of the sea floor by approximately five feet, displacing more than 3,000 cubic yards of shoal.
“We are grateful to the U.S. Navy for taking this positive and proactive step to maintain safety within Chuuk port,” said Robert Riley, U.S. ambassador to the FSM. “The action is emblematic of the steadfast and enduring nature of the security relationship that exists between the United States and the FSM, and is indicative of the close bonds that exist between our two countries. The sun will not set on our commitment to the defense of the
During the preparation leading up to the blast, UCT-2 divers drilled 29 holes approximately three feet into the shoal, and filled them with 252 pounds of explosives. The controlled demolition lowered the depth of the shoal, which was initially at a depth of 20 feet below the water’s surface, to approximately 26 feet. Throughout the planning and execution stages of the project, environmental safety measures were employed in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act.
Prior to the blast, lookouts were employed to watch out for marine life and a bubble screen was deployed, which releases compressed air into the water surrounding the blast site to scatter off marine life. These measures minimize the potential for affecting protected marine species wherever explosives are used. The shoal demolition was coordinated with the Chuuk State Governor, local police, port operations, marine resources, and the U.S. Embassy in Pohnpei, FSM.
“Our coordination with the agencies in Chuuk, including the local police, was vital to the success of the shoal demolition. They provided invaluable manpower and knowledge to keep the area free of non-essential personnel, ensuring a safe blast,” said Lt. Zach Niezgodski, UCT 2 Construction Diving Det. Charlie officer-in-charge. “Everything UCT-2 is doing while we are here is an effort to assist the people of FSM and to improve the functionality of the Chuuk Cargo Port.”
In addition to the shoal demolition, UCT-2 will provide a range of operations improving the wharf area, including inspecting of existing navigational aides; assessment of the wharf; exploring the port for future deep-water mooring locations; and placing environmental offsets at popular scuba diving sites which will protect the coral reef from damage due to boat anchors.
FSM and the United States share a close and mutually beneficial relationship through the Compact of Free Association (CFA), which has existed since 1986. The CFA provides for economic assistance, defense of FSM, and other benefits and agreements.
UCT-2 provides construction, inspection, repair, and maintenance of waterfront and underwater facilities in support of Navy and Marine Corps operations. UCT Seabees have the unique ability to perform shallow, deep water, and terrestrial construction.
Valiant Shield is a U.S. only, biennial field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training in a blue-water environment among U.S. forces. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.