In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) has been called on to provide maritime assets in support of the relief efforts on the coast of Texas. One such vessel is the training ship USTS Empire State VI, a vessel with a long and interesting history. Originally built for States Steamship Company as a conventional break bulk vessel, she was delivered in 1962 as the SS Oregon, a name she kept until purchased in 1977 by Moore McCormack Lines and renamed Mormactide. She was transferred to United States Lines in 1983 when that company purchased Moore McCormack Lines but by that time, United States Lines was a pure container operator and in 1986 she was turned over to MARAD. In the picture above she is seen in transit of the Kiel Canal, Germany.
Built by Newsport News Shipbuilding, Virgina
Laid down in 1961, delivered in 1962
Owned by US Maritime Administration
GRT 14,557 tons
DWT 14,620 MT
Propulsion: 2 × Foster Wheeler Type D steam boilers, steam turbines, single screw
Design speed 18 knots
Complement: 684 cadets, 107 officers & crew
Previous names: SS Oregon, SS Mormactide
Under MARAD, the vessel was originally ear-marked to be converted to an ammunition ship. However, the plan was dropped and instead she underwent a conversion to a Training Ship and renamed Empire State VI. In 1989, she was delivered to the State University of New York Maritime College to replace the older Empire State V. Under her new name she was activated by MARAD in 1994 to support the withdrawal of American troops from Somalia. She was next activated in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and served as housing and support for port and petroleum industry personnel during the recovery effort in Louisiana. In 2012 following Hurricane Sandy, she was used to provide accommodation to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel.
Each summer Empire State VI is activated for a 90 day maritime cadet training voyage and having now served New York Maritime College for 25 years, she holds the record as the longest serving power driven vessel ever used by the college. She is expected to remain in use until at least 2020, though proposals to modify her in order to extend her life and remain in compliance through 2031 are under consideration.
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and its predecessor agencies, the US Maritime Commission, the War Shipping Administration and the United States Shipping Board, have built, owned, operated, or subsidized thousands of merchant vessels, especially during the two world wars. The US Merchant Ship Sales Act of 1946 established the National Defence Reserve Fleet to serve as a reserve of ships for national defence and national emergencies. At its height in 1950, the NDRF consisted of 2,277 ships. That number is currently down to about 100, the picture above right showing a small sample of those laid up in James River, Virginia.
Doubtless, these aged but still useful maritime assets will also be called upon in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma which will hit Florida this weekend having already devastated parts of the Caribbean.
Ship of the Week contributed by Captain Stephen Brown of West Pacific Marine.