Empire State VII training ship makes stop in San Juan on maiden voyage
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico is hosting the maiden voyage of the state-of-the-art ship Empire State VII, crewed by 227 cadets from the Maritime College of the State University of New York (SUNY). The ship arrived in the port of San Juan on Tuesday after its training mission in the U.S. Maritime Administration’s National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV) program.
Embarking from SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx, New York, on Jan. 10, the cadets traveled along the United States’ East Coast to San Juan for the new ship’s first training mission. The NSMV Empire State VII is also designed to respond to natural and other disasters and could provide relief to the island in events like hurricanes or floods, officials said.
“We welcome to Puerto Rico the Empire State VII and its crew, who are training not only to keep our economy running but are also training to respond to any type of emergency, both in the continental United States and in Puerto Rico,” said Eduardo Pagán, general manager of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.
“Additionally, we’re excited to offer Puerto Rican students the chance to learn” about maritime careers “through an exclusive visit in which they will tour the vessel, delving into the details of its operation, and learning about service in the Merchant Navy. We hope this visit will be beneficial for them and their future,” Pagán added.
The maritime industry contributes significantly to Puerto Rico, providing more than 2,000 jobs and generating more than $96 million in wages and $221 million in economic activity. SUNY Maritime College, the first of seven U.S. maritime academies, offers in-state tuition rates to prospective students from Puerto Rico.
The Empire State VII is a new training ship owned by the federal government and operated by SUNY Maritime College. It is the first of five multi-mission ships built to support mariner education and training at the six state maritime academies in the U.S. This three-week cruise is its maiden voyage.
The NSMV, a new vessel class, is optimized for training and to respond to national disasters. Previous training ships like the Empire State VI assisted in relief efforts for hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Cadets seeking a U.S. Coast Guard license must complete three sea experiences, including Summer Sea Terms and/or Cadet Shipping on civilian-crewed ships. For the first time, SUNY Maritime students will receive sea term training during the winter academic term, providing valuable hands-on learning onboard a ship.
“It’s critical that we are able to give the students at SUNY Maritime the best education and most up-to-date training available in order to continue to graduate licensed mariners in the thriving maritime industry,” said Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, SUNY Maritime’s president.
“Our national defense and economy are dependent upon mariners. There is currently a nationwide shortage of mariners, and Maritime College has an important role in graduating U.S. licensed mariners to crew ships that are vital to our economy and provide logistical support for our operational forces in peace and conflict,” he said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) NSMV program is designed to provide purpose-built, state-of-the-art training platforms for state maritime academies in New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Texas and California.
This next-generation training fleet addresses a critical shortage of qualified officers for government and commercial sealift ships. The NSMVs will also support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
The NSMV will feature instructional spaces, a full training bridge and accommodate up to 600 cadets for first-rate maritime academic training at sea. State maritime academies graduate more than half of all new officers each year annually, supporting both the economy and U.S. national security.
Each ship will have modern hospital facilities, a helicopter pad and accommodate up to 1,000 people in humanitarian crises. The NSMV’s roll-on/roll-off and container storage capacities are crucial for disaster relief missions. Ship specifications align with the pier length, draft restrictions and mooring limitations at each maritime academy.