Texas A&M University’s maritime academy is one step closer to getting a full-fledged training ship with the U.S. House’s passing of its 2021 appropriations bill.
Texas’ delegation in Congress successfully included $389 million in the U.S. House of Representatives’ appropriations bill to pay for the ship, the academy announced. The bill passed the House vote on Friday, and now makes its way to the U.S. Senate.
The yet-to-be-built ship, known as a National Security Multi-Mission Vessel, would be able to train up to 600 cadets at sea and serve double duty as the only hurricane relief vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.
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,” Chancellor 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.”
The U.S. Maritime Administration is in the process of 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. In addition to training, the NSMC’s will be designed for humanitarian missions, with roll-on/roll-off capability, modern hospital facilities, a helicopter pad and the ability to accommodate up to 1,000 people
The first NSMV has been designated for use by SUNY Maritime upon delivery in 2023, replacing the Empire State VI.
Philly shipyard has been selected to build the first two NMSVs with options for three additional vessels. TOTE Services was selected by MARAD in May 2019 to be the Vessel Construction Manager (VCM) for the NSMV program.
“Texas A&M is one of only a handful of American universities to have the rare triple designation as a land-grant, space-grant and sea-grant institution,” President Michael K. Young said. “This impressive new ship will not only enhance the training and experience our cadets receive in our Maritime Academy, but also continue to advance the university’s mission of service from our campuses to the vast expanse of the sea.”
The Texas A&M Maritime Academy’s current training ship is the 1983-built USTS General Rudder, a former ocean surveillance ship for the U.S. Navy.
“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. “We have dreamed of this capability for over a decade and cannot thank our Texas delegation – as well as the System and university leadership – enough for moving this closer to a reality.”