The Navy hospital ship Comfort tied up at Pier 90 in New York City Monday morning, the latest military asset to deploy in response to the city’s coronavirus outbreak.

An escort of McAllister Towing and Transportation tugboats, Coast Guard and police vessels accompanied the 894’x105’x33’ hospital ship into New York Harbor for its first mission there since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

The Comfort has capacity of 1,000 hospital beds, and was dispatched from Norfolk, Va., to bolster New York’s straining hospital system. The ship will take non-Covid 19 patients to free up shoreside hospital capacity, as will a military field hospital set up at the Jacob Javits convention center about 10 blocks to the south on Manhattan’s West Side.

The hospital ship Comfort with the tug Capt. Brian A. McAllister on the starboard bow passes the Statue of Liberty March 30, 2020. Bjoern Kils/New York Media Boat photo.

The hospital ship Comfort with the tug Capt. Brian A. McAllister on the starboard bow passes the Statue of Liberty March 30, 2020. Bjoern Kils/New York Media Boat photo.

The ship’s complement includes more than 1,200 personnel, with Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands. Over 70 civil service mariners operate the vessel.

Docking pilot Capt. Robert Ellis was at the helm as the Comfort arrived, with four tugs in support to bring the ship to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on the Hudson River.

The Z-drive tractor tugs Capt. Brian A. McAllister, Ava McAllister, Alex McAllister and Ellen McAllister provided over 21,000 combined horsepower to guide the Comfort into the berth.

“I’m so proud of our team, especially the crews on our vessels that have continued to work safely and tirelessly during this extraordinary period in our lives,” said Capt. Steven Kress, McAllister’s vice president of operations. “To all the essential workers including medical personnel, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, military, law enforcement, grocery store employees and transportation workers, thank you!”

“The USNS Comfort arrives in New York City this morning with more than 1,100 medical personnel who are ready to provide safe, high-quality health care to non-Covid patients,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the USNS Comfort Military Treatment Facility. “We are ready and grateful to serve the needs of our nation.”

Built in 1976 as the Rose City, a San Clemente-class oil tanker, the Comfort was acquired by the Navy in 1987 and converted to provide a mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military during expeditionary warfare. Comfort’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide, responding to natural disasters.

“Like her sister ship, USNS Mercy, which recently moored in Los Angeles, this great ship will support civil authorities by increasing medical capacity and collaboration for medical assistance,” said Rear Adm. John Mustin, vice commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “Not treating Covid-19 patients… but by acting as a relief valve for other urgent needs, freeing New York’s hospitals and medical professionals to focus on the pandemic.”

Navy officials said the ship is expected to begin receiving patients with 24 hours of arrival.

“All patient transfers will be coordinated with local hospitals, thus ensuring a consistent handoff of care between medical provider,” according to the Navy. “Patients will not be accepted on a walk-on basis and should not come to the pier with any expectation that they can receive care.”

“The last time that this great hospital ship was here was in the wake of 9-11, where she served as respite and comfort for our first responders working around the clock,” said Mustin. “Our message to New Yorkers – now your Navy has returned, and we are with you, committed in this fight.”

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.