The risk of lightning strikes hitting ammunition as supplies are unloaded off a ship is just one of the challenges facing logisticians during the major task of resupplying a garrison such as Brunei.
The tropical weather, in a climate where temperatures reach an average of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, bring with it powerful thunderstorms and not only makes loading and unloading exercises exhausting work for the Royal Logistic Corps but also creates unique challenges.
In one of the latest resupply exercises to Brunei, container-loads of supplies, 250 tonnes of training ammunition and a fleet of vehicles have been unloaded in a ‘mammoth’ logistics exercise to resupply British Forces Brunei (BFB).
The huge task has been three years in the planning for what is usually a biennial event to resupply the garrison in Brunei.
A contracted Roll On Roll Off (RORO) vessel delivered 41 ISO containers and six vehicles in the exercise.
Maj Charlie Frost, SO3 Log Support for Brunei garrison, described the exercise as 'a mammoth task' - but how do you execute something like that overnight, at a weekend, during stand down?
He said: “The date's been fixed for quite a long period of time, so we've forecasted people's leave well in advance.
“We've made sure we've got the right people with the right qualifications available over leave, and unfortunately, landing on a weekend is quite normal for Brunei."
The exercise was largely completed by BFB Logisticians, who worked with several local contractors and Bruneian government agencies in order to achieve the scale of vehicles, cranes, MHE, administrative and legal support required to receipt the vessel and conduct the resupply task.
Others from the garrison also lent their support to the exercise, including 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR).
Maj Frost said:
"We heavily relied upon 2RGR for manpower, to assist at the ammunition compound, loading the ISO containers and making sure that they're correctly packaged and secure.
“We've also had 2RGR drivers to assist with unloading of the vehicles and getting the vehicles from the port up to Tuker Lines.”
The task was a challenge for the Garrison Logisticians for several reasons - namely, Brunei is not scaled for this sort of bulk resupply, and the majority of the leased containers that had to be loaded for exporting BFB salvage had to be shipped in from Singapore.
There were also issues during the exercise itself - all loading and off-loading of ISO containers had to be done using the ship’s crane, which was a slow process and was compounded by working through the night.
In addition, the new vehicles for BFB had to be driven off via the ship’s side ramp - which was only possible at high tide.
Sgt Coleman, visiting from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC in Marchwood, said that - despite the time limitations - this had actually been quite useful.
"The weather was on our side and the tide was on our side, which enabled us to use the side ramp for the task, which would normally take a bit longer if we had to lift all the cargo off the ship."
There were issues with the vehicles as they had not been started during their 28-day transit to Brunei, so not all of them started immediately and either had to be slaved or the batteries replaced. In the end, one of the vehicles had to stay on the ship and make its way back to the UK.
The weather also played a part during the task. Though it was a dry night and a hot morning, by the time the training ammunition had reached the Ammunition Compound at BFB, it had started to rain.
LCpl Ramchurn, Ammunition Technician explained why the weather brings with its own hurdles to overcome.
"The weather always brings challenges, regardless of whether it's sunny - the lads need to drink more ... because it's exhausting work - but equally, when thunderstorms are due, we'll have to stop work and make sure any ammunition that is outside doesn't stay there just in case of lightning strikes."
A stormy afternoon delayed work by several hours - though the team managed to get things put away before nightfall.
The resupply facilitated the in-load of around 250 tonnes of training ammunition to sustain 2RGR (and then 1RGR from mid-2020), 7 Flight Sqn Army Air Corps, Jungle Warfare Division of the Infantry Battle School and supporting units to allow the continuance of training in the jungle environment for up to two years.
Overall, the resupply task was a success.
Maj Frost said:
"The team worked really well; everything was pretty effectively communicated amongst the different departments - the complexity of this task is that we were working across three different locations and continuously having to call each other and update each other...and adjusting everyone's timelines so they knew when to expect whatever commodity they were expecting."