What might the US built 'floating pier' for humanitarian aid in Gaza look like?

What might the US built 'floating pier' for humanitarian aid in Gaza look like?
Analysts suggested that Washington’s decision to build a temporary pier and resorting to air drops suggests a deepening rift with its closest ally
5 min read
08 March, 2024
The US plans to build a temporary port structure are not the first time a port for Gaza has been proposed [GETTY]

US President Joe Biden announced plans to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza in a new move aimed at increasing aid deliveries in the war-battered Strip during his State of the Nation television address on Thursday.

The move comes as warnings that Gaza is steps away from a famine grow louder and aid agencies report continuing difficulties in distributing supplies as fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas intensify.

Over a quarter of Gaza's 2.3 million people are said to be experiencing famine-like conditions and 1 in 6 children under the age of two in the northern governorates are acutely malnourished.

A seaport would open a new route for aid, which is currently limited to two land border crossings in south Gaza. The UN has reportedly pressed Israel to open a third crossing in the north of Gaza, but they are yet to agree.

Where will the floating pier be and who will be in control?

While full details still need to be revealed, US officials have indicated that American troops will soon begin constructing a 'floating pier' and a temporary dock to store supplies near the Gaza coastline.

The supplies will be shipped from Cyprus as part of the maritime corridor presented in November by the Cypriot president to bring aid to the occupied territory by sea.

Biden said it would involve a "significant amount" of US military personnel but stressed that there would be "no boots" on the ground. US warships are already in the vicinity and floating docks would likely pop up to support the operations.

It could take up to 60 days to construct – an issue which the British Foreign Secretary said on Friday means other routes need to be urgently opened. Other countries, including the United Arab Emirates are said to be involved.

Cyprus, being the closest European Union member to the conflict, has been one of the key proponents of the maritime corridor plan which could see food, medical and shelter supplies delivered to Gaza from the port of Larnaca.

Israel is said to have agreed to the plan, but the US would likely work with other countries to monitor the pier. One Israeli official quoted anonymously by The New York Times said that aid donated by the UAE would be sent to Cyprus, inspected by Israel and shipped to the Gaza coast.

The shipments would be accompanied by armoured vessels, and US defence officials are said to be organising protection for the construction phase too, considering the proximity to the war zone.

The pier will be constructed off Gaza’s current port, near Al-Rashid Street which runs along the coast south of Gaza City. The marine, used by local fishermen, has suffered damage from Israeli shelling during the course of the war.


What will it look like?

There is speculation that the US will create something similar to the portable floating piers seen off the US coast, namely an ‘Expeditionary Elevated Causeway’ (ELCAS) structure which can support large cargo offloads.

The technical structure is part of US army and navy joint operations and has been used for offloading and transferring goods, or as a temporary bridging platform. Some structures are strong enough for aircraft to land.

Not the first international port proposal for Gaza

The Oslo Accords, the agreement signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s, promised Gaza a seaport, as well as an international airport. The latter was established but only operated for three years before it was destroyed in 2002.

Chris Doyle, director at the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said that in 2000 works began for a port in Gaza.

"Works started in 2000 but Israel blocked supply of materials within months, paralysing the construction. Israel destroyed what had been started. Israel did pledge to allow rebuilding in 2005 but this did not proceed," Doyle wrote on social media site X.

What does Israel think?

Israel said on Friday it supports the establishment of the maritime corridor as presented by Cyprus in November to bring aid into Gaza.

"The Cypriot initiative will allow the increase of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, after security checks are carried out in accordance with Israeli standards," the spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry said in a post on X.

What does the international community think?

UN aid coordinator for the Palestinian territory Sigrid Kaag said on Thursday that aid being delivered by air or sea cannot "substitute" land deliveries. Creating more land routes is easier, faster, and cheaper, she said.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Friday that constructing the temporary port would take time and urged Tel Aviv to allow Ashdod port to receive aid supplies.

Additionally, the airdrops recently carried out by the US and Jordan have faced criticism for being more of a PR stunt than an effective relief operation.

Several people reportedly died after being struck by an aid package after its parachute failed to open and fell onto a house in north Gaza on Friday.

Analysts have suggested that Washington's decision to build a temporary pier and resort to airdrops indicates a deepening rift with its closest ally, as it appears unable to persuade Tel Aviv to cooperate on opening aid border crossings.