Two maritime training ships have been activated by the U.S. Maritime Administration to head for the Texas Gulf coast and join Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
The Empire State VI, the training ship for the State University of New York Maritime College, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s Kennedy are part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Marad officials ordered them Friday to sail within 10 days for the four- to five-day transit to Texas.
The Texas Maritime Academy training ship General Rudder was also activated, and is in its homeport at Galveston, which is recovering at a quick pace. Altogether the three training vessels are mobile, self-contained assets for aiding the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response effort.
The ships “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,” Marad officials said in announcing the deployments.
Berthing emergency workers is no small consideration in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, where an estimated 1 million people have been displaced from their homes and Texas authorities need to move refugees out of short-term shelters to interim housing.
The initial mission duration will be 30 days, with an option for extending another 30 days at FEMA’s request. This week, “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,” according to Marad.
The last Marad activation was for Hurricane Sandy in 2012. On this mission the training ships are joining three Navy vessels: the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, a dock landing ship, the Oak Hill, and the William McLean, a replenishment and cargo vessel. The Navy group sailed from Norfolk, Va., on Thursday.