The SUNY Maritime College training ship, TS Empire State VI, will return to Ft. Schuyler, New York on Tuesday, October 24, after nearly two months at sea in support of hurricane relief efforts in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Empire State VI was activated along with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s TS Kennedy and Texas Maritime Academy’s training vessel General Rudder to assist FEMA with the Hurricane Harvey response effort in Texas on September 1. Before Empire State arrived in Texas, however, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and the mission was altered to assist in the Florida recovery efforts instead. After approximately two weeks in Florida, Empire State was sent to San Juan, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
At both locations, the training ship was used to provide power, housing, food and water to emergency relief workers, making more local hotel rooms available to people displaced by the storms. The Empire State VI also brought 46 pallets of bottled water, food and other items for victims of the hurricane thanks to a state-wide donation campaign led by Governor Cuomo and The State University of New York. Approximately half of the pallets came from the SUNY drive; the rest came from the state-wide campaign led by the governor’s office, the Academy said.
The supplies were donated to Puerto Rico through United for Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization established in the wake of Hurricane Maria by Puerto Rican First Lady Beatriz Rossello.
The Empire State VI is used by Maritime College throughout the year as a platform to educate and train future maritime industry professionals. The ship is owned by the Maritime Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation. All three vessels in September- TS Empire State VI, TS Kennedy, and TS General Rudder – are part National Defense Reserve Fleet and can be activated in times of national need, such as during storm response and recovery efforts. Empire State was last activated to respond to Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Maritime College is honored and proud to have had the opportunity to assist in these recovery efforts,” said Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime. “The past two months demonstrate the value of the state maritime academy training ships in times of national need such as these, as well as training America’s future mariners. I am pleased to welcome home Capt. Rick Smith and the crew of the Empire State VI and to thank them for their service.”
The ship is expected to arrive on campus around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. In addition to the crew, which includes eight Maritime College alumni, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and several others will be board the ship near Staten Island for the trip up the East River.
“This is a proud moment for Maritime College, SUNY, and all of New York State as we welcome home the crew of the Empire State VI,” said Chancellor Johnson. “Every individual on this ship selflessly put their personal lives on hold for the past two months – in many cases leaving their family and friends – to support the relief efforts and begin to repair the damage caused by multiple hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean. It will be my honor to join them for the final leg of their homecoming sail and to personally thank President Alfultis, Capt. Rick Smith, and the crew of the Empire State VI for a job extraordinarily well done.”