Michelle Rau

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Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point: Army's Primary East Coast Deepwater Port

MOTSU FILEminimizerMany of us probably don’t think about the importance of dredging in relation to national security and maintaining access to our military bases and terminals.  Maintaining access to navigation basins, access channels, and berthing areas is a critical component in our nation’s ability to accomplish its military and national security mission.  When these waterways and berthing areas become shoaled, the immediate capacity of a facility or base to transport materials and personnel is reduced or delays are incurred until full project capabilities are restored through dredging. 

ANAMAR recently sampled and tested dredge material at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), which is one of the largest military terminals in the world.  It is a high-security facility that is constantly patrolled by boats with armed soldiers.  And for good reason—MOTSU is the key ammunition shipping point on the Atlantic coast for the Department of Defense and is the Army's primary east coast deepwater port.  As the world's largest military terminal, Sunny Point ships more explosive cargo and equipment to the nation's armed forces and allies than any other facility.  The mission of the facility is to be prepared to quickly and effectively support the U.S. military and allies through the shipment of munitions, ordnance, or other military materials in response to any global situation or military requirement.  The maintenance of navigation depth at MOTSU is a prerequisite to maintaining a high state of operational preparedness at the facility.

Built in 1951, the terminal serves as a transfer point between rail cars, trucks, and ships during the import or export of weapons, ammunition, explosives, tanks, and military equipment for the U.S. Army.  MOTSU sprawls across 8,600 acres on the west side of the Cape Fear River, near the towns of Boiling Spring Lakes and Southport.  A vast majority of MOTSU’s real estate is longleaf and loblolly pine forest, which provides a barrier between shipping operations and the general public.  To prevent harm to the surrounding community, there is a 2,100-acre buffer zone on Pleasure Island (Carolina, Kure, Wilmington, and Fort Fisher beaches) and a 4,300-acre buffer in Brunswick County.  Despite its isolation, Sunny Point is an impressive facility.  Its three huge docks can handle several ships simultaneously.  Large cranes and 62 miles of tracks within the terminal move military supplies and explosive cargo.  The two most controversial cargoes shipped through the terminal were World War II nerve gas in 1970 and European spent nuclear fuel rods in 1994.

Sources:

Mims, Bryan.  2015.  Secrets of Sunny Point.  Our State Magazine.  May 26, 2015.  https://www.ourstate.com/military-ocean-terminal-sunny-point/.  Accessed 01/02/18.

Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Ocean_Terminal_Sunny_Point  Accessed 01/29/18.

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