Gaza aid pier ships drift away in rough seas

Experts say the pier is difficult to operate in rough seas

Troops work on a beached vessel, used for delivering aid to Palestinian, after it got stuck trying to help another vessel behind it.  Reuters
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The US military’s Gaza aid pier encountered more difficulties on Saturday after two vessels broke free from the structure and drifted on to a beach near Ashdod in Israel.

The 550-metre-long floating causeway was built to connect to the shoreline in Gaza, taking months to get into position at a cost of about $320 million.

Experts say the pier is difficult to operate in rough seas and according to maritime expert Sal Mercogliano, a “lighterage” vessel for transferring aid seems to have lost power and drifted towards Israel, while a military landing craft attempted to recover it.

The pier can encounter problems in “sea state 3,” or conditions where waves are three feet high or over. On Thursday, three US soldiers were injured while working on the pier, one of them critically.

Critics of the pier, which is operating as part of a wider multinational maritime aid corridor, say it takes pressure off Israel to open land borders, a vastly more efficient way of getting large volumes of aid into the strip.

The structure was announced by President Joe Biden in early March amid delays getting aid through Gaza’s borders, largely blamed on Israel, leading to famine and deaths from malnutrition, according to the World Food Programme.

There have also been concerns, despite the US stressing that no American forces will set foot in Gaza, that the operation could drag US forces into the war. Mortar bombs were fired at a marshalling area on the shoreline last month, where Israeli forces were said to be securing aid depots.

On Saturday, US Central Command, the US military’s headquarters in the Middle East, said that “personnel continue to team up with USAID and the UN to deliver aid to the people of Gaza via a temporary pier affixed to the beach”.

US military said 1,005 tonnes of aid had been delivered through the pier as of May 24. Estimates of the minimum food aid Gaza requires per week vary, but are often placed at about 4,000 to 5,000 tonnes.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 7:08 AM