House Passes Funding for Training Ships, Port Infrastructure
In an omnibus spending package passed by the House of Representatives on Friday, the House Appropriations Committee has allocated hundreds of millions in extra funding for maritime programs for the FY2021 fiscal year. Key among them are two large line items for the National Multi-Mission Vessel Program, the Maritime Administration's project to replace the aging training ships currently in use at state maritime academies. The contract to build the five-ship series was awarded to Philly Shipyard in April 2020.
The first $389 million allocation would go towards a ship for Texas A&M University, the school said in a statement Friday. “We have needed a suitable ship for years to help train much-needed merchant mariners and other sea-bound [students] who are ready to serve,” said Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp. “I want to offer my gratitude to the Texas delegation for working hard to help the Texas A&M Maritime Academy and the entire maritime industry.”
According to Sharp, Texas congressional representatives Randy Weber, Will Hurd, Henry Cuellar, Kay Granger and Bill Flores played a role in getting the funding into the final bill. The new ship would allow the school to send 600 cadets to sea at a time, and in its secondary disaster-response role, it would provide a platform for future hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. In the case of an emergency, the ship could house up to 1,000 response workers, serve as a hospital ship or use its ro/ro ramp to deliver supplies.
The second line item for the training ship program appears separately and totals $315 million.
Among many other items, the bill also includes:
- $314 million for the Maritime Security Program
- $10 million for a new "Cable Fleet Security Program" for U.S.-flagged cable-layers
- $300 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program
- A second, additional appropriation of $1 billion for the Port Infrastructure Development Program
- $100 million for the Assistance to Small Shipyards Program
- $3 billion for the TIGER / BUILD program
- $5 billion for rail infrastructure and safety improvements