WASHINGTON— President Biden said in his State of the Union speech Thursday that the U.S. military will install a temporary pier off the coast of the Gaza Strip for cargo ships to unload food, water and other emergency supplies, boosting the direct American role in addressing the enclave’s humanitarian crisis.

Biden directed the military to carry out the emergency project, aiming to ease food shortages and lack of shelter and medical services for Gaza’s 2.2 million residents, according to U.S. officials who briefed reporters ahead of Biden’s speech Thursday evening. The president has been under pressure to do more to alleviate civilian suffering in Gaza, where the Israeli military is fighting the Hamas militant group .

“This temporary pier would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day,” Biden said in his address . “But Israel must also do its part. Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire.”

Once the pier is in place, aid shipments enabled by the U.S. and a coalition of partners and allies will flow to Gaza, initially from Cyprus, U.S. officials said.

The forces that will be required to complete this mission are either already in the region or will begin moving there soon, they said. The mission, expected to be temporary, won’t require U.S. boots on the ground in Gaza, officials said.

The plan developed by the U.S., the European Union and other countries calls for the new aid shipments to Gaza sent by sea to begin in the next few days and for a private company to handle the logistics, according to a senior European Union official, who added that no military vessels would be involved.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration faces increasing pressure to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza . In addition to establishing a way to bring aid into Gaza by sea, the U.S. plans to step up its airdrops and has pressed the Israelis to open a new land crossing.

The Biden administration is looking to at least one American company, Fogbow, to coordinate deliveries to Gaza through the new maritime corridor using commercial ships, according to Gulf officials and people familiar with the plan.

Fogbow, which is made up of former U.S. government, military and United Nations officials, will lead efforts to secure the ships and coordinate with the Israeli government, the U.N. and Gazans on the ground, those people said.

Israel will screen the shipments in Cyprus to ensure no weapons or other products that could be helpful to Hamas fighters in Gaza are included, the senior EU official said. In addition, Israel will monitor the sea routes taken by cargo ships after they leave Cyprus to ensure no contraband is smuggled on board during the voyage, the official said.

The Qatari government has approved funding to support the use of commercial ships to Gaza, Qatari officials said. Administration officials said that they are exploring options for shipping aid by sea, but that they haven’t reached a formal agreement with any company.

The idea of assembling a floating pier has long been touted by the U.S. military as a way to move supplies ashore in regions where ports are inadequate or have been damaged in a conflict. The concept is known as Joint Logistics Over the Shore and can involve the establishment of floating causeways, specialized vessels outfitted with cranes and logistics support ships.

Biden’s expected announcement follows the commencement of airdrops by the U.S. military and other countries last week into Gaza. U.S. officials have expressed frustration over the sharp decline in humanitarian aid convoys moving into Gaza in recent weeks, because of worsening security and a refusal by Israel to open additional border crossings.

The U.S., along with Jordan’s Royal Air Force, conducted a humanitarian airdrop of 38,000 pounds of meals into Gaza on Thursday, according to the Pentagon.

U.S. officials said they would seek to coordinate with Israel on aid deliveries, as well as work with the United Nations and humanitarian nonprofit groups on the distribution of assistance within Gaza. But the U.S.-led effort to boost aid into Gaza by sea and air would go ahead even without Israeli participation, the officials said.

“The president has directed that we look at all options—that we not wait for the Israelis, and that we are pursuing every channel possible to get assistance into Gaza,” one senior official said.

The assistance will need to be transported by land within Gaza to reach those in need once it arrives at the pier, U.S. officials said, adding that they are working with the U.N. and other partners to find safe routes within Gaza.

Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 5, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

“It certainly will be complex to work out, but I think the more avenues we have to get assistance in the more we will be able to reliably move it around within Gaza as well,” a U.S. official said.

The United Arab Emirates has been working for more than a month to mobilize international efforts to reopen the maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza, which has been inactive since 2005, an official from the Gulf government said.

“We bring to the table the funding, which we are doing, but also we bring to the table an ability to galvanize others and to coordinate closely with others,” the U.A.E. official said.

Cyprus first proposed establishing a sea corridor in October but for months it got little traction. Now, work is under way to prepare a specific area of the beach in north Gaza that Israel has designated for receipt of the first sea shipments under the Emirati-backed pilot, a person familiar with the plan said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will be in Cyprus on Friday to inaugurate the maritime corridor with local officials.

The trip between Cyprus and the Gaza coastline would take approximately 23 hours, those familiar with the plan said. If the plan works, officials hope that within 28 days, 200 truck loads worth of aid would arrive every day.

According to the plan, officials from Israel, which is concerned about aid falling into the hands of Hamas, would oversee Cypriot inspection of the cargo going onto the ships, Gulf officials said.

The operation will use a landing craft utility, a type of amphibious vehicle that can operate in shallow water without a port, since Gaza’s seaport was largely destroyed in the early weeks of the war.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at nancy.youssef@wsj.com and Vivian Salama at vivian.salama@wsj.com