Philly Shipyard lays the keel of the first new MARAD training ship
MARAD’s national security multi-mission vessel program marked a milestone today with the keel laying of the first of the vessels to modernize training capabilities at U.S. state-sponsored maritime academies. The goal is to provide modern training ships to future US navies, and in times of crisis the ships will also support humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.
First announced by MARAD in 2017, the project currently has four vessels on order all of which will be built at the Philly Shipyard in Pennsylvania with Tote Services acting as the project’s construction manager. The first of four vessels, which began construction in December 2020, is expected to be delivered to SUNY Maritime College in New York in 2023, followed by two vessels in 2024 for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Maine Maritime Academy. The fourth ship, due in 2025, has been assigned to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, and a fifth ship, if funded by the US Congress, would be assigned to the California State University Maritime Academy.
“Today’s first NSMV keel lay is a critical step in an innovative effort that produces state-of-the-art vessels in a U.S. shipyard that will both train the next generation of U.S. sailors and provide a new response capability to disasters for the nation, ”said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “We congratulate all of you who are working hard to keep this effort on time and on budget, and we look forward to the final delivery of the first vessel. ”
The first keel block of the future Empire State training ship was dry-docked mid-morning, today December 10. The overall project is considered a significant investment in the US shipbuilding industry. Each NSMV will be constructed from 7,000 metric tonnes of steel produced by US steel mills. The first of the four main generator engines, manufactured by Wabtec Corp. also recently arrived at the shipyard and will be lowered into the hull in the first quarter of 2022. Manufacturing of the second of the vessels also began in March 2021.
The program also represents a significant improvement in the training of future seafarers. MARAD has historically provided ships from the National Defense Reserve Fleet as training vessels for the six State Maritime Academies. Schools have had to carry out their training on retired and often worn out ships. MARAD is currently working to replace these old ships with new specially designed training ships that will better meet the training needs of academies.
Speaking at today’s keel-laying event, RADM Michael Alfultis, President of State University of New York Maritime College, said, “This historic maritime event is the realization of a vision of many. years made possible by the partnership between the Presidents of the State Maritime Academy, the Department of Transport, the Maritime Administration and members of Congress. I am grateful to each of them for their efforts and support for this vital program which will shape the future of the maritime industry and enhance the training of future seafarers. Our cadets look forward to learning and training on this state-of-the-art vessel. “
Rendering of the future Empire State (MARAD) training ship
Each of the ships will be 525 feet in length with a width of 89 feet. They are designed with a range of over 10,000 miles at 18 knots. Each vessel is fitted with bow and stern thrusters and a modern diesel power plan that includes four engines split between two engine rooms. The NSMV will feature extensive training spaces, a full training deck, and accommodation for up to 600 cadets.
Besides being an educational platform, ships are designed to fulfill many additional roles. The NSMV can support the federal response to national disasters such as hurricanes, with state-of-the-art hospital facilities, a helicopter landing pad and the ability to moor up to 1,000 people in times of humanitarian need. In addition to its humanitarian capacities, the NSMV has a roll-on / roll-off ramp and container storage allowing it to provide aid to the damaged ports.
“TOTE Services’ contract with MARAD demonstrates a new procurement process for federal shipbuilding, where the government takes advantage of best business practices to design and build vessels that are union-built in a US shipyard with steel and engines made in the United States, ”said Jeff Dixon, president of TOTE Services. “Our goal is clear: We are committed to making this program a success and delivering these ships for MARAD, so that our future cadets have the modern training platforms they deserve. “