The Biden administration is supporting a multimillion-dollar program by the Maritime Administration to replace aging and obsolete training ships at the nation’s five state maritime academies with new state-of-the art vessels.

The president’s 2022 budget proposal, which is expected to be submitted to Congress by the end of the month, includes funding for the fifth and final training vessel, called the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV).

The request was outlined in a letter to congressional appropriations committees on April 9 from the White House which detailed the administration’s priorities for discretionary funding programs in advance of releasing the full budget plan later this month. The letter said that these requests are part of the president’s broader agenda to “lay a foundation to reinvest in the nation’s strength.”

Under his funding plans for the Department of Transportation, the president requests funds to “secure a state-of-the art training vessel for the next generation of merchant mariners,” stating that funds “would support good-paying jobs in the domestic shipbuilding industry and provide an invaluable platform to train the next generation of U.S.-credentialed mariners.”

It adds: “With this final ship, all five state maritime academies would receive state-of-art training tracing vessels, retiring the current ships, which have outlived their useful life.”

If approved by Congress, funding for construction of the final ship would cap a multi-year lobbying effort by the state academies and their allies in Congress to replace existing training ships — many of which are more than 50 years old and contain obsolete engineering and navigational equipment — with new vessels that would greatly improve opportunities to train cadets for jobs on modern commercial vessels.

These funds would be for the fifth and final vessel, slated to replace the Golden Bear at California Maritime in Vallejo, Calif.

Work began on the first new vessel at Philly Shipyard last December. It will replace the nearly 60-year-old Empire State VI at SUNY Maritime Academy in New York and is expected to be delivered in early 2023.

The second vessel will go to Massachusetts Maritime Academy, followed by Maine Maritime, Texas A&M and California Maritime.

The Philly yard has the exclusive contract for all five ships. TOTE Services is the vessel construction manager.

Each ship will have room for up to 600 cadets to train at sea using highly advanced equipment. In addition, the five vessels will carry 100 officers, faculty staff and crew. There will be numerous training spaces including eight classrooms, a full training bridge, lab spaces and an auditorium, according to the Marad.

Besides cadet training, the new NSMVs are also designed to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. There will be modern hospital facilities, a helicopter pad and space to accommodate up to 1,000 humanitarian workers.

The ships will also have a roll-on/roll-off ramp and container storage to provide aid to damaged ports.

Marad says that these new vessels “will foster the growth of the nation’s maritime transportation workforce, men and women working in the shipbuilding and repair industry, while addressing a critical shortage of U.S. merchant mariners needed to crew commercial and government-owned sealift ships during a military crisis.”


Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.