Sea Transportation: March 21, 2003


The movement of combat divisions from the United States to the Persian Gulf in 1991 was slow and cumbersome, more so than expected. For example, a lot of the military equipment in divisions was not able to move by rail, because work had not been done on how to pack and load them on railroad cars. The equipment had originally been delivered to the army by truck, so for the 101st Airborne divisions, 1,174 truckloads of gear had to be sent to the port, while the rest of the division was able to go by rail (which is quicker and cheaper, if you have worked out how to get everything on the rail cars quickly). In 2003, the troops were ready. More rail loading sites had been set up near military bases, and the details of loading everything on rail cars had been worked out. The movement to the ports went much quicker. There were other improvements as well, particularly in the use of computer software to track equipment in transit, especially stuff loaded into shipping containers. In 1990, some 40 percent of the shipping containers arriving in the Persian Gulf had to be opened up to see what was in them, because the markings on the outside was inadequate. This time, every container was bar coded and the information about the ID code of each container and what was in it was entered into a computer database. This data (suitably encrypted) was available over the Internet and there was far less confusion about what was in the containers and where they were at any given moment as they moved to the ships and then out to sea. 


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