WASHINGTON – Along with thousands of active-duty and National Guard troops, several commercial passenger ships are also reporting to duty to support hurricane-relief efforts along the Gulf Coast, U.S. Northern Command officials announced.
The ships, contracted by the Navy's Military Sealift Command, are part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
's massive response to provide relief for displaced victims, officials said.
The command awarded contracts for four ships to provide interim housing to those displaced by the hurricane and possibly relief workers, as well. Three of the ships, Sensation, Holiday and Ecstasy, belong to Carnival Cruise Lines and the fourth, MV Scotia Prince, to Scotia Prince Cruises
, officials said.
FEMA Director Michael D. Brown called the cruise ship option just one of many efforts under way to provide housing for those forced to flee the Gulf region in Katrina's wake.
"FEMA is handling the Herculean task of coordinating the relocation of many thousands of individuals and families whose lives have been torn apart by Hurricane Katrina," Brown said. "Every available alternative, including creative options for immediate housing, is on the table."
The four cruise ships were immediately removed from commercial service in response to FEMA's request for temporary housing, and Military Sealift Command chartered the ships for six months, beginning no later than Sept. 10.
Beginning today, FEMA-contracted buses are transporting hundreds of hurricane victims from Houston's Astrodome to temporary quarters on board Sensation and Ecstasy in the port of Galveston, Texas, where the ships are currently moored. The Holiday, in Mobile, Ala., and the MV Scotia Prince, which will moor at another Gulf Coast port
, will also serve as mobile platforms for interim housing, officials said.
The Sensation and Ecstasy each accommodate 2,634 passengers; the Holiday carries 1,848; and the MV Scotia Prince, 1,000.