Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org)
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and the six state maritime academies (SMAs) rely on dedicated platforms for at-sea training in in engineering, seamanship and navigation. But the training fleet, owned by the Maritime Administration (MARAD), is getting old and challenged by maintenance, repairs and obsolescence.
The maritime industry is vital the nation’s commerce, and there is a shortage of qualified seafarers for U.S.-flagged ships, The six state maritime SMAs Maritime Academy, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Texas Maritime Academy and California Maritime Academy – together produce more than 70 percent of U.S. licensed Coast Guard officers each year.
The academies have traditionally relied on older vessels that have been converted for the training role. For example, the Training Ship (TS) Empire State, currently assigned to the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College, and TS Kennedy, currently assigned to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, are former merchant ships that have been repurposed. These two vessels are each more than 50 years old, and are now serving beyond their designed service lives. Altogether the training fleet represents four different classes of ships.
To address this pressing need and recapitalize and standardize the training fleet, MARAD is designing and building new built-for-purpose ships to provide training as well as support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), because the training ships have regularly been sent to disaster areas to provide housing, meals, logistical support, and relief supplies to victims, responders and support personnel in the past.
“The ability to merge two primary missions into one vessel is a critical design feature that MARAD is looking to incorporate in the new training ships and is the reason for the class name given to them, the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV),” said Eugene van Rynbach, vice president at Hebert Engineering, the company leading the preliminary design team.
NSMV will be 524.5 feet long with a beam of 88.6 feet and a draft of 21.4 feet. It will displace 19,237 tons. The ship had to be compatible with pier length, draft restrictions and mooring limitations at each of the academies, as well as being able to call at austere ports to conduct HA/DR operations.
The older ships do not represent the new ships in service today where the cadets may expect to serve. The NSMV will provide for a better training experience, with a modern, efficient and environmentally-compliant diesel-electric power plant and state-of-the-art navigation equipment. It will be optimized for both training and HA/DR, with improved berthing, class rooms, workshops and laboratories. There is space for containers, extra berthing spaces and a roll on/roll off capability — with a side ramp and cargo crane– for supporting HA/DR missions.
The NSMV will feature secure communications and command spaces, hospital facilities and a helicopter deck, as well as training spaces, including a full training bridge, eight classrooms, workshops, lab spaces and an auditorium.
MARAD has $300 million in the 2018 budget designated for the first ship and planning for another $300 million in 2019 for the second ship