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MTMC moves first commercially booked cargo via an Iraqi port

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UMM QASR, Iraq (USTCNS) --- The first commercially booked maritime shipment into an Iraqi port has been conducted by the Military Traffic Management Command.

APL brought the shipment into the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr aboard the feeder vessel Sima Tara. The port was the scene of heavy fighting in the first days of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was declared captured March 25, 2003. Later, explosives and maritime experts had to clear the port of mines and obstacles.

The shipment Sept. 27 handled by MTMC's 831st Transportation Battalion was actually a test to validate the use of the port and at the same time to reduce the supply lines for deployed U.S. forces and to boost Iraqi economic growth and infrastructure development.

The cargo consisted of 10 containers of military construction supplies that originated from a storage location in Bahrain. Upon discharge, the containers were shipped by railroad to a Coalition customer in Central Iraq.

This is also the first non-humanitarian aid cargo to transit Umm Qasr, Iraq's deepest water port located at the far southeast corner of the country, near the Kuwaiti border. The port has been served by smaller feeder vessels that originate at major seaport transshipment hubs in the region.

The 831st, headquartered in Bahrain, on the Persian Gulf, coordinated the test with U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Combined/Joint Task Force 7, Baghdad; and Joint Movements Center, Kuwait.

"This is an extremely important first step as it eliminated the need to discharge these containers in Kuwait and transship them via truck to Iraq," said Lt. Col. Stanley Wolosz, 831st commander. "Streamlined commercial ocean service direct to Iraq will offer military as well as commercial customers more transportation options and will likely shorten ship time for all."

In late October, a second shipment of 166 containers was discharged in Umm Qasr?again from the Sima Tara.

As the Iraqi infrastructure develops, MTMC planners hope to eventually book sustainment cargo for Operation Iraqi Freedom directly into Iraq through Umm Qasr. In this manner, the carrier and his agents will conduct all intermediate transportation arrangements to ensure door-to-door shipments for military customers.

The movement was the responsibility of Capt. David Mitchell, commander, of the 831st detachment in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Mitchell coordinated the discharge with APL's agent, Saba Marine Services Co., of Baghdad. Mitchell's key contacts were Capt. Saieb Shakir, general manager of the firm, and his brother engineer Bilal Shakir.

"These men were visibly excited about the chance of beginning commercial service and happy to see their country moving forward and into the international business community," said Mitchell.

Saieb has been in the shipping business for over 10 years. Bilal, who has never left Iraq, is a university trained computer programmer.

Mitchell praised the work of his Iraqi partners.

"Once Captain Shakir got the labor arrangements squared away, the rest of the operation went like clock-work," said Saieb Shakir. "The containers were discharged, moved and secured at the railhead exactly as we had directed.

"We hope this is the beginning of commercial shipments that will help us as customers and help the Iraqi people as a whole."

The test shipment took place with the cooperation of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Ports Authority, currently being assisted by Stevedoring Services of America.

"The port is in remarkable shape considering the circumstances of the last year and two newer model gantry cranes towers above the main vessel berths," said Mitchell. "Improvements and repairs continue each day including the disposal of a wrecked freighter."

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