Articles: A freedom worth celebrating

1812: A freedom worth celebrating

1812: US and UK celebrate the Freedom of the Seas

This article first appeared in the Royal Navy publication, 'Logistic Matters'.

It is hard to believe that 200 years ago, a war was fought by two nations that are today the closest of allies; a war fought between Great Britain and the United States for the Freedom of the Seas.

Today, the Navies of the warring countries, Great Britain, the United States and Canada circumnavigate the globe together as one, with the same goal; to maintain the freedom of the seas for all nations.

This year saw the US Navy celebrating that freedom as they marked a turning point in history, the end of the War of 1812.

A series of co-ordinated Naval celebrations extended from New Orleans to New York before eventually moving to the Great Lakes.

The Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary joined the celebrations at each of the major events on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the US.

MLS, honoured to be the major maritime logistics supplier for these events, supported both the Royal Navy and the US Navy at each of the celebrations that saw HMS Montrose in New Orleans and RFA Argus in New York, Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston.

Later in the summer, port visits in Quebec City and Montreal (Canada), Buffalo (New York), Cleveland and Toledo (Ohio), Detroit (Michigan), Chicago (Illinois) and Milwaukee (Wisconsin), saw MLS cater for over 10,000 crew and 28 vessels from April through to September 2012.

The task was complex. For each port, MLS chartered a variety of assets including grey, black and fresh water barges, passenger launches, garbage barges, breasting pontoons, busses, vans and cars.

Having provided all the support required for the maritime operations, the shore based activities surrounding each event proved to be equally demanding.

Providing support to the US Navy staff coordinating each major event, MLS supplied the equipment for command centres in each port including metal detectors, bag scanners, supplies for crowd control and vessel force protection plus up to 100 personnel to operate equipment at various locations around each city. Waterborne and land based transportation for crew and event organisers were also supplied as were meals and water for US Navy security personnel.

Although these celebrations do not come close to approaching the scope and logistical challenges of the Royal Navy's Trafalgar 200 in 2005, many of the same management and planning techniques were implemented by MLS to ensure each ship attending received the highest standards in service and support.

While each event in the United States was smaller in scale, MLS were still required to recreate similar planning in the 12 ports from the US Gulf Coast through the US Great Lakes over a five-month period.

MLS was further challenged by having to find suitable berths for all supported ships. In New Orleans, ships are spread along a four mile stretch of the Mississippi river while, in New York, MLS supported war ships in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Although challenging, large Naval Reviews are business as usual for MLS with everyone within the organisation thriving on meeting each challenge and solving issues before they become problems.

The coordination and support required goes well beyond the normal logistics provided to ships on a daily basis.

The planning is similar to any military operation. Months and weeks are spent preparing for the event and making sure every service and supply is available on time, as required. It is vital that the logistics of the events run smoothly and although it is never easy, it is important to make it look like it is.

During the Bicentennial, a vast range of logistical solutions were provided, from the supply of water taxis to transport visitors to war ships for a trip on the Mississippi through to the organisation of a reception for more than 1,000 attendees. It was a hectic time requiring immense planning and organisation of a vast team, including specialist vendors and suppliers who worked hand in hand with MLS to make the event a success.

"It has been an enormous privilege to work with these two great Navies on such an historic and significant anniversary," commented Thomas Rafaraci, the Group Chairman of MLS.

"Of course it is widely accepted that the war of 1812 was the catalyst for the uniquely strong relationship that we see today between Britain and the United States. And it is worth noting that one of the key components of this relationship has been the ability to reach out and provide each other with logistic support at times of need. Whether that involved building and equipping a vast merchant fleet on the east coast of the US during WWII or sharing logistic established UK supply chains during the Korean war or in Afghanistan today, it is a story of strength not just through political alignment but of logistic interoperability on a scale never seen before.

"So it was with a sense of poignancy that I witnessed these two great maritime partners standing shoulder to shoulder throughout the celebrations, and MLS was honoured to be there to work a little bit of logistics magic on such a special shared occasion."

On this project, the most important part of our work was to ensure the US Navy, the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary were fully supported and had the peace of mind that comes from a tried and trusted support network.

MLS have earned that trust and every project is an opportunity to reaffirm the foundations on which the relationship with the Royal and US Navies is built. MLS believes in relationships that are built to last.


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