Maritime academy training ships from New York and Massachusetts are once more heading out for hurricane relief, with orders from the federal Maritime Administration to sail for Puerto Rico.
The Empire State VI, the training ship for the State University of New York Maritime College, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s Kennedy are to serve as berthing, feeding and supply points for first responders on the U.S. territory.
It is the second deployment in less than a month for the ships, which are operated by the academies but part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Both were dispatched in early September to assist with recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but the Empire State VI was diverted to Key West, Fla., after Hurricane Irma’s strike there. The 565’ SUNY Maritime vessel can berth up to 650 personnel.
Before departing from Key West the Empire State VI took on dozens of cargo pallets with water, canned food, feminine products, baby wipes and diapers, and other items donated by people from across New York.
Recently returned from Puerto Rico to see Hurricane Maria’s damage, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the cultural connection between his state and the island means “Puerto Rico is part of the New York family, and these critical contributions from New Yorkers across the state are a testament to our unyielding commitment to help the island recover.”
“The devastation in Puerto Rico is similar to what we saw in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,” where the Empire State VI served in 2005, said SUNY Maritime president Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis. “The hurricanes that have wrought devastation on our country these past few weeks have shown the vital purpose the nation’s fleet of training ships provide for disaster response, and underline the importance of finding suitable replacements for them.”