By Code 700 NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville and NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk
For many Sailors and families stationed throughout the Southeastern United States, June 1 looms ominously on the horizon. The date officially marks the beginning of hurricane season, but the majority of preparations begin long before a hurricane makes landfall. Both the NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Jacksonville and NAVSUP FLC Norfolk fuels teams are no strangers to these essential and time-critical preparations.
Safety remains a top priority in all fuels operations, and safety measures must be in place to support mission success in the face of extreme weather. Prior to the start of hurricane season, fuels personnel are tasked with preparing for, and implementing precautionary measures that not only support safety regulations, but also reduce the risks associated with high wind and high seas, which can cause significant damage to fuel tanks, piers, ships, and aircraft.
For instance, bulk fuel tanks are often empty due to internal inspections. Lacking its normal weight when full, fuels personnel must ensure the tank is anchored and able to withstand severe weather conditions. Fuel barges are similarly filled with fuel prior to a storm to reduce the impact of heavy seas. Additionally, fuels personnel work to ensure supplies such as sand bags, oil drip pans, and oil spill response kits are on hand and ready for use if needed. Potential storm surges and flooding may require that electrical equipment in low lying areas is relocated to higher ground.
Prior to, during, and after a hurricane, the NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville and NAVSUP FLC Norfolk fuels teams actively engage with regional leadership in reporting fuel inventories and availability. The successful and on-time delivery of fuel is critical to continued operational readiness in addition to disaster response operations throughout the region.
An important point to consider regarding Department of Defense (DoD) fuels is our reliance on the civilian fuels market infrastructure for supply. The DoD accounts for approximately 1.5% of U.S. fuel consumption, and Navy fuels are a boutique subsegment of that. Regardless of military priority, we are a high maintenance, low value customer, as far as national refineries are concerned. Navy fuel is specially blended for naval use. However, it is sourced from civilian refineries and transported via the civilian supply chain. Since the Navy does not and cannot dictate the resiliency of the civilian fuel sector, we must prepare for any natural disaster or emergency that can potentially cause a disruption in this chain. As a result, ensuring our bulk fuel facilities at NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville and NAVSUP FLC Norfolk are topped off is key to mission success throughout hurricane season.
Ironically, one aspect of preparing for a hurricane is working diligently to transport fuel away from the bulk storage facilities and into the hands of retail sites and other customers who can more directly support the fleet. NAVSUP FLC Norfolk ensures that combat logistics force supply ships receive ample fuel deliveries prior to a storm, allowing for multiple underway replenishments should a fleet sortie occur. Additionally, fuel tanks at regional airfields such as Naval Air Station (NAS) Norfolk and NAS Oceana are filled to safe operating capacity, fuel barges are filled and prepositioned at retail sites allowing for the fastest possible response time, and fuel trucks continuously transport fuel, pending highway safety.
During the storm, operations cease and only emergency response personnel remain, should immediate action be required. Hatches are battened down, missile hazards are removed, mooring lines are doubled, and the storm is weathered as we monitor the tanks and other equipment to ensure facility integrity. Personnel are required to review their Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System account in advance of and throughout the duration of the storm. One-hundred percent personnel accountability and updated recall information are critical when planning for immediate clean-up and operations following a storm.
Likewise, the work of the fuels team is not complete after a hurricane has passed. Damage assessments are completed as soon as practical to determine if fuel facilities are safe to operate. NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville fuels personnel collaborate with the command Operations Division to provide critical fuels assistance in support of the command’s Enterprise Logistics Response Team. These teams are activated to augment other NAVSUP FLCs in times of crisis or emergency and are typically staged to deploy within 96 hours of a disaster or emergency situation. Fuels personnel assist in flexing a full array of logistics functions and perform critical tasks such as topping off vehicles and emergency generators, often the sole power source for installations.
Following a hurricane, focus is also shifted at NAVSUP FLC Norfolk, with attention now being turned to the ships and aircraft, as they return to homeport following a sortie. Additional fuel deliveries are scheduled at retail fuel facilities in order to support returning squadrons and fuel barges are made ready for pierside refueling for returning ships.
Hurricane season brings about many logistic challenges and obstacles. However, Navy fuels personnel diligently prepare facilities, formulate courses of action, and execute accordingly. We remain poised and ready and are always up to the task!