A $1.3 trillion appropriations package passed by the House on July 31 includes $389 million for MARAD for school ship construction. According to Texas A&M University, the funding was included by the Texas delegation in the House to provide a new training ship for Texas A&M Maritime Academy.
Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System said he wanted to personally thank the Texas delegation in the House, particularly: Reps. Randy Weber, Will Hurd, Henry Cuellar, Kay Granger and Bill Flores.
“We have needed a suitable ship for years to help train much-needed merchant mariners and other sea-bound Aggies who are ready to serve,” Sharp said. “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.”
MARAD is replacing the aging fleet of training vessels used by the state maritime academies with new National Security Multi-Mission Vessels, or NSMVs. The 525-foot ship is designed to provide a training platform and would be outfitted with several training spaces, such as eight classrooms, a full training bridge, lab spaces and an auditorium.
The NSMV is also able to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and includes hospital facilities, a helicopter pad and the ability to accommodate up to 1,000 people in times of humanitarian need. Additionally, the NSMV will provide a roll-on/roll-off ramp and container storage.
Texas A&M says the ship would stand ready to be deployed in the event of a hurricane or other disaster, noting that there is nothing similar to the proposed NSMV in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship could reach any point in the Gulf within a day or two. Other training ships in Massachusetts and New York would need two weeks or more to reach the Gulf in the case of an emergency like Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Katrina or another disaster.
“This new ship – with its state-of-the-art training capabilities and critical disaster-response capabilities – will transform our ability to accomplish our training mission while also supporting the immediate delivery of disaster supplies and emergency medical capability throughout the Gulf of Mexico region,” said Col. Michael E. Fossum, vice president and chief operating officer of the Galveston Campus of Texas A&M and superintendent of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy.