The Training Ship Empire State left New Orleans on Friday, March 3, marking the end of an unprecedented six-month mission for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MarAd).
Ten of the agency’s ships were activated to aid in recovery and relief efforts in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This marked the first time the ships of MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force were activated at the request of the Secretary of Transportation to deal with a domestic emergency, and the first time training ships provided by MARAD to State maritime academies were pressed into service to provide food and shelter. Six ships of the Ready Reserve Force: Cape Kennedy, Cape Knox, Cape Vincent, Diamond State, Equality State, and Wright; three training ships, State of Maine, Empire State, and Sirius, and one other ships from MARAD’s National Defense Reserve Fleet, the Texas Clipper II, answered the call. They brought urgently needed supplies, including water; they provided assistance for oil spill cleanup; they generated electricity, and provided 269,000 meals and 83,165 berth nights for recovery workers and evacuees.
“The men and women who crewed and operated these ships provided relief and care to the Gulf Coast at a critical time, and they have brought great honor and distinction to the U.S. merchant marine,” said Acting Maritime Administrator John Jamian. “They moved quickly into the stricken area and provided food and shelter, plus improvising communication strategies, first aid—anything that was needed. They demonstrated the extraordinary ingenuity of merchant mariners, and the capability of the maritime industry to respond to a crisis.”
Ship management companies coordinated the unprecedented effort: Keystone Shipping of Bala Cynwyd, PA; Pacific Gulf Marine of Gretna, LA; Interocean American Shipping of Voorhees, NJ; Ocean shipholdings
of Houston, TX; and Crowley Liner Services of Jacksonville, FL.