Philly Shipyard Inc. has delivered the 524.3'x88'6" Empire State, the first of five new purpose-built, modern training vessels for the U.S.’s state maritime academies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (Marad) new vessel program — known as national security multi-mission vessels (NSMVs) — was designed to provide world-class training for America’s future mariners and to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in times of need. With a draft of 24.6', the Empire State, which can berth up to 760 people, will serve SUNY Maritime College.

This next-generation training fleet will address a critical shortage of qualified officers necessary to crew government and commercial-owned sealift ships.

The NSMV will feature numerous instructional spaces, a full training bridge, and have space for up to 600 cadets to train in a first-rate maritime academic environment at sea. State maritime academies graduate more than half of all new officers each year — the merchant mariners who help keep cargoes and the economy moving. Many also support U.S. national security by crewing military sealift vessels.

In addition to being a state-of-the-art training and educational platform, each ship will feature modern hospital facilities, a helicopter pad, and the ability to accommodate up to 1,000 people in times of humanitarian need. Adding to the NSMV’s capability, it will provide needed roll-on/roll-off and container storage capacity for use during disaster relief missions.

Ship specifications will be compatible with the pier length, draft restrictions, and mooring limitations at each of the maritime training academies.

“We are beyond proud to deliver the Empire State today, our first government newbuild in the history of Philly Shipyard.” Steinar Nerbovik, president and CEO of Philly Shipyard, said in a statement announcing the delivery. “We are honored to be trusted with this important project, and on behalf of all of our skilled workers, we are confident that the Empire State will provide a safe, reliable, and state-of-the-art training platform for generations of future mariners.”

Philly Shipyard was awarded the contract to build the NSMVs by TOTE Services LLC, a U.S.-based company that was hired by Marad to oversee the construction of the training vessels as the vessel construction manager (VCM). The NSMV program is the first government-sponsored shipbuilding program to utilize the VCM model. This model places the responsibility for the selection and oversight of the shipyard on a government contractor that utilizes commercial best practices to manage the project.

The next training vessel, NSMV II, destined for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, is scheduled to be delivered in 2024. Meanwhile, the keel laying for NSMV III (Maine Maritime Academy) and steel cutting for NSMV IV (Texas A&M Maritime Academy) were recently completed. Construction of NSMV V (California Maritime Academy) will begin later this year with all vessels to be delivered by 2026.

“Today’s delivery of the Empire State is an historic moment for the American maritime industry made possible by the U.S. Government’s investments in our nation’s industrial base,” said TOTE Services President Jeff Dixon. “These investments are on full display as we look to build the next generation of domestic mariner training ships more cost effectively — and on schedule — using commercial innovation and best practices. We must also give credit to the dedicated and skilled workers at Philly Shipyard, whose tireless efforts in the face of unprecedented challenges helped make this milestone possible.”

The delivery of the 8,487 dwt. Empire State, which has a running speed of 18 knots, marks the delivery of the first government ship built using the VCM contract model. This innovative approach enables shipyards to apply commercial best practices for design and construction to government vessels. There is growing interest in the VCM contract model and its potential applicability to government shipbuilding programs to reduce costs, accelerate delivery times, and build more vessels.


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