The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's training vessel, TV Kings Pointer, is being transferred from the Academy's Kings Point, N.Y. campus to Texas A&M University in Galveston. Those who are concerned about how the USMMA is being treated by the current leadership of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration are none too happy about this. However a press release put out by the Department today provides the rationale for the move.
The transfer, says the statement, facilitates the upcoming reconstruction of Mallory Pier, the Academy’s main ship docking facility. The Mallory Pier project has been in the planning stages for several years, and work is now scheduled to begin in early 2012. The project will take 12 to 18 months, during which time there will be no docking facilities available to tie up vessels as large as the TV Kings Pointer.
In addition, "Academy leadership has determined that the TV Kings Pointer no longer meets its training needs in a cost effective manner. Currently, USMMA midshipmen obtain the sea time needed for their U.S. Coast Guard license aboard commercial merchant ships, and only use Academy training craft, like the Kings Pointer, for basic familiarization, ship handling and seamanship instruction. The TV Kings Pointer can be more cost effectively used in the maritime training curriculum at Texas A&M University, which is dependent upon a dedicated school ship. The Academy will use other vessels, such as the TV Liberator, for midshipman training until a new vessel is acquired."
In her 19 years at the Academy, notes the statement, the TV Kings Pointer has traveled over 100,000 miles along the inland and offshore waters of the East Coast and provided over 75,000 sea days of midshipman training. She gained worldwide attention on October 31, 1999, when she was the first vessel to arrive at the crash site of Egypt Air Flight 990, which crashed in the waters off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, killing 217 passengers and crew. The ship was on a routine training cruise from Kings Point, New York to Boston, when she responded to a marine distress call.
In addition to training Academy midshipmen, the TV Kings Pointer has been used for Merchant Marine safety and maritime security training and for officer and enlisted training by every branch of the Armed Forces. In addition, it has been used for training new recruits of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Officer Corps. The ship has hosted Secretaries of Transportation, Senators and Congressmen, military personnel, and thousands of Merchant Marine veterans, Academy alumni, parents and other visitors. She also served as the Department of Transportation’s official platform for the 2000 Tall Ships Parade in New York Harbor, and has represented the Academy and the American Merchant Marine at countless maritime festivals and port calls from Maine to Florida.
December 15, 2011