First and Fifth New U.S. Training Ships Mark Milestones
The U.S.’s National Security Multi-Mission Vessel NSMV) program, the first dedicated training ships to be built for the five U.S. state maritime academies is continuing to gain momentum. Two of the ships, the new Empire State, and the future training ship for the California Maritime Academy, the first and last ship of the program, marked milestones.
The fifth ship of the class, which gained approval for its funding in 2022, is beginning construction. The ceremonial first steel cut for the ship took place on February 9 at the Philly Shipyard with officials from TOTE Services which is managing the program along with the Maritime Administration and Cal Maritime on hand. They joined together to press the button to start the plasma steel cutting process.
The vessel was added to the program after previous orders for the first two which are for New York’s SUNY Maritime and Massachusetts Maritime. The program was expanded with orders for the two additional vessels for Maine and Texas before the final ship for California.
#TGIF! Today, @phillyshipyard, @TOTEServices and #CalMaritime celebrated the cutting of steel for the 5th NSMV destined for Cal Maritime, signifying the start of production for the vessel. ????????— California State University (CSU) Maritime Academy (@Cal_Maritime) February 9, 2024
???? Photos courtesy of Michaela Campina, @phillyshipyard pic.twitter.com/rtDllzsOJu
MARAD awarded the contract to TOTE in May 2019 to manage the program in a unique process designed to bring the efficiencies and expertise of commercial best practices to the design and construction of the government-owned vessels. TOTE highlights the program with it operating as Vessel Construction Manager as an example of a model to provide unique benefits to the program.
“We’ve reached a historic milestone with the cutting of steel for this ship that will be used to train future cadets at the California State University Maritime Academy,” said TOTE Services President Jeff Dixon. “We’re grateful for the widespread, bipartisan support the NSMV program has received to help make this significant investment in the U.S. maritime industry possible.”
Before the program, the state maritime schools worked with outdated and outmoded vessels that retired from commercial service and were provided on loan from MARAD. “For decades, the academies have relied on retired and retro-fitted naval vessels to train their cadets,” Cal Maritime noted when it received funding for its vessel. They highlighted that the NSMVs are highly capable, modern, and versatile, which will elevate the level of training and shipboard experience for both the cadets and their instructors.
It is critical to improve the training capabilities to support the future of the U.S. merchant marine. Officials note that the state academies each year graduate more than half of all the new officers added to the merchant marine. The NSMVs have numerous features including instructional spaces, a full training bride, RoRo capabilities, the ability to handle containers and provide a first-rate academic environment, and modern operating systems to properly train cadets. They are also designed to support disaster and humanitarian efforts with a full hospital, helicopter pad, and space for up to 1,000 people. Normally, they accommodate up to 600 cadets and instructors during their training missions and a total berthing of 760.
The vessels are 8,487 dwt. They are 524 feet (159.85 meters) and have an operating speed of 18 knots.
The Empire State VII was delivered to SUNY Maritime reaching its campus in September 2023 as the first ship of the class. Last month, she marked a key milestone commencing her maiden voyage and first training at sea for cadets. It was also the first winter academic term session conducted by SUNY Maritime.
They loaded 227 cadets with 100 crew and planned to depart on January 9 but delayed for a day due to concerns about weather conditions. She proceeded to San Juan where she arrived on January 15. During the voyage, cadets followed the typical routine moving between watchstanding, class, and maintenance and repair days.
SUNY reports it also provided a full shake-down to test all the systems and equipment before the longer summer sea terms later this year. They reported experiencing “a mechanical problem with one of the two propulsion drives,” during the trip which resulted in an extended stay in San Juan. They got underway on January 22 after also waiting due to inclement weather in the Atlantic and returned to the campus at Fort Schuyler on January 27.
Philly Shipyard reports that the second ship of the class, Patriot State, is currently undergoing testing and commissioning before her delivery to Massachusetts. The third ship, State of Maine, is preparing for launch while the keel laying for the fourth ship, Lone Star State, was celebrated on December 6, 2023. The engines for the vessel have been installed in the engine room units.