US deploys training ships for Hurricane Harvey relief operation

US deploys training ships for Hurricane Harvey relief operation 

By Jite Eriabie 

The maritime academy training ships TS Empire State VI and TS Kennedy have been ordered to get underway to Gulf of Mexico to support ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) activated the two National Defense Reserve Fleet vessels on Friday for a pre-scripted Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mission in support of the relief efforts.

The State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College’s training ship, EMPIRE STATE VI, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s training ship, KENNEDY, have received orders to set sail within 10 days for the 4 to 5-day transit from the east coast to the coast of Texas.

MARAD also received notification from FEMA to activate the Texas Maritime Academy’s training vessel GENERAL RUDDER, which will remain in-port at Galveston. Once moored on site, the self-contained vessel will support recovery efforts by providing power, housing, food and water to first responders.

Combined, these three vessels can house over 1,200 workers thereby freeing up local hotel resources for displaced individuals, according to MARAD.

The duration of the support mission is currently set at 30 days with an option for an additional 30 days upon request by FEMA.

During the next week to 10 days the vessels will be taking on crew members, provisions for the relief workers and reconfiguring the ship from its primary mission as a training vessel to a berthing support role.

These vessels have been activated in support of past relief operations with the most recent activation for Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The ships join the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), along with USNS William McClean, in the relief efforts. The three ships departed Norfolk, Virginia on Thursday. 

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