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

Many 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.


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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Important differences between FDA action levels given in the SERIM and those given by FDA


Action levels provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are used as screening benchmarks during Tier III testing evaluations under Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA).  These action levels are based on human health and economic considerations and represent limits above which the FDA can take legal action to remove products from the marketplace (EPA and USACE 1991, known as the ‘Green Book’).  The Southeast Regional Implementation Manual (EPA and USACE 2008, known as the ‘SERIM’) provides guidance for MPRSA Section 103 testing evaluations in the southeastern United States.  Some discrepancies exist between the action levels provided by the FDA and those given in the SERIM.  The table below compares action levels between the SERIM, the source document to the SERIM (FDA 2001), and the most current FDA action levels (FDA 2011).

The action level presented in the SERIM for cadmium in bivalve tissue is switched with that of crustacea (see table above).  The SERIM applies the crustacea action levels to include polychaete worms as the FDA lacks any action levels intended for polychates.  The action levels given in the SERIM for mercury are intended for use specifically for methylmercury (FDA 2001 and 2011) rather than for total mercury.

The SERIM (Section [page 24]) and the Green Book (Section 6.3 [not paginated]) suggest the reader use an updated version of the FDA action levels when available.  FDA action levels have been updated since the SERIM was published in 2008 and, therefore, it is useful to refer to FDA (2011) for some or all action levels rather than Appendix H of the SERIM.  However, since FDA (2011) omits arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and nickel, the values given in FDA (2001) may, with the approval of USACE, continue to be used as screening benchmarks for these metals in Tier III evaluations.

Sources Cited Above:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  1991.  Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Ocean Disposal, Testing Manual [Green Book].  EPA 503-8-91-001.  EPA, Office of Marine and Estuarine Protection and Department of the Army, USACE, Washington, DC.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  2008.  Southeast Regional Implementation Manual (SERIM), Requirements and Procedures for Evaluation of the Ocean Disposal of Dredged Material in Southeast U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast Waters.  EPA Region 4, Atlanta, GA, and USACE South Atlantic Division, Atlanta, GA.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  2001.  Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, Third Edition — June 2001 [online document].  Accessed 02/25/11 online at:  http://www.fda.gov/Food/‌GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/Seafood/FishandFisheriesProductsHazardsandControlsGuide/default.htm.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  2011.  Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, Fourth Edition — April 2011 [online document].  Accessed 01/09/12 online at:  http://www.fda.gov/Food/‌GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/Seafood/FishandFisheriesProductsHazardsandControlsGuide/default.htm.

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