First U.S. Training Ship Empire State is Delivered to MARAD

Empire State training ship
Empire State during her recent sea trials (MARAD)

Published Sep 8, 2023 12:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. merchant marine training efforts marked a major milestone today with the official delivery of the first of five new purpose-built, modern training vessels for America’s state maritime academies. The Empire State was delivered to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) by Philly Shipyard and TOTE Services, which is overseeing the program for MARAD. The training ship has been assigned to the SUNY Maritime College in New York.

A long-term in coming, the program is the first time the U.S. has built dedicated training ships for the merchant marine which traditionally has been trained on outdated ships provided by MARAD after they ended their commercial service. The new Empire State replaces a vessel of the same name which went into service in 1962 as a C4 breakbulk cargo ship. She has been operating as the college’s training ship since 1989. She departed on her last training voyage on May 27, a 75-day sea term with 442 cadets and 81 faculty, staff, and crew members. For the remainder of the year, the training ships are docked at the college campus providing hands-on education spaces for the cadets.


Empire State at anchor during her sea trials earlier in the summer (Philly Shipyard)


Known as National Security Multi-Mission Vessels (NSMVs), the five ships are designed to provide world-class training for America’s future mariners and will also be able to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in times of need. Each of the vessels will feature numerous instructional spaces, a full training bridge, and accommodations for up to 600 cadets. 

They are also designed with a Ro-Ro ramp, cargo crane, and the ability to handle containers which enhances the training and the multi-mission concept. In addition to the designs to serve as a 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.

The NSMV program was authorized in 2019 with the contract for the first vessels awarded in 2020. It is also the first government-sponsored shipbuilding program to utilize the Vessel Construction Manager (VCM) model. TOTE Services is the master contractor to MARAD responsible for the management of the program. The VCM 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.


Empire State (forward) departing for sea trials while Patriot State (aft) was repositioned at the shipyard (SUNY)


The next training vessel, NSMV II, destined for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy as the Patriot State, is also in an advanced state of construction and is scheduled to be delivered in 2024. The keel laying for NSMV III which has been assigned to Maine Maritime Academy, and steel cutting for NSMV IV, which has been assigned to Texas A&M Maritime Academy were recently completed. Construction of NSMV V which will be for the California Maritime Academy, will commence later this year with all vessels to be delivered by 2026.

MARAD and the industry believe this next-generation training fleet will help to address a critical shortage of qualified officers necessary to crew government and commercial-owned sealift ships. State maritime academies graduate more than half of all new officers each year.

Philly Shipyard and the training ship program is featured in the new issue of The Maritime Executive

Vessel specifications:
• Deadweight: 8,487 MT
• Length: 159.85 m
• Breadth: 27.00 m
• Draft, scantling: 7.50 m
• Total berthing: 760 people
• Speed: 18 kts

Empire State and her sister ship Patriot State at Philly Shipyard earlier this year (Philly Shipyard)