Texas A&M Maritime Academy Needs a Training Vessel

Jason Tieman
Texas A&M Foundation

The Texas A&M Maritime Academy is one of six state maritime academies and the only one serving the southern states from Texas to New Jersey. In 1965, the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) provided a training ship for the Academy. The U.S. Navy ship, USS Queens, was renamed the Texas Clipper and the cadets embarked on the first summer cruise. That same year, George Mitchell donated 100 acres on Pelican Island and in 1970 the first campus structure was completed, a dock for the Texas Clipper. Then, in 1996 the Texas Clipper was replaced with the Texas Clipper II. For 40 years, these two training vessels allowed the Texas A&M Maritime Academy to consistently and successfully train for the practical underway skills necessary for deck cadets to navigate and manage the vessel’s routine operations as well as facilitate engineering cadets to operate and maintain the machinery supporting a vessel’s propulsion and auxiliary services.

In 2005, Texas A&M Maritime Academy embarked on years of failed attempts to identify and acquire a suitable replacement training vessel. The lack of a proper training vessel resulted in cadets being divided and sent to sail on other state maritime school vessels. Since 2006, the maritime academy has sent more than $12 million to other state maritime schools by outsourcing cadet training that could have been reinvested into the Texas A&M Maritime Academy programs and facilities. In 2012, the United States Merchant Marine Academy vessel Kings Pointer was acquired and renamed General Rudder, offering a very limited capacity and less than optimal “unlimited tonnage” training. While the General Rudder provides opportunities for approximately 50 cadets to get underway, the majority of the cadet’s training days at sea are still required to be met by borrowing space aboard other academies’ vessels.

Texas A&M Maritime Academy. Photo Courtesy of Texas A&M Maritime Academy

Currently, Texas A&M Maritime Academy is the only state school that does not have an appropriately-sized training vessel and has been forced to share vessel space between other academies the past 12 years. In the past five years alone, Texas A&M Maritime Academy has invested nearly $50 million in residence halls and other supporting infrastructure, including the maintenance of a dock designed to accommodate a 473-ft long ship. Finally, in late 2017, the Texas A&M Maritime Academy was informed they were no longer able to use other state school vessels and is now forced to pay an estimated $5.5 million to lease the Kennedy from Massachusetts Maritime Academy. This turn of events is costly, disruptive to training, and not sustainable in the near or long-term future.

There is an increasing demand for petroleum, finished products, and containerized cargo along the Gulf Coast that will continue to increase vessel traffic and the supporting maritime infrastructure must grow to meet that demand. The need for professionally-trained mariners will be critical to ensure vessels are operated safely and the logistical supply chain is managed efficiently. Texas A&M Maritime Academy has almost 600 deck and engineering cadets needing access to a training vessel throughout the year. As the industry evolves, the training must evolve to support the demands. However, this cannot be done without the appropriate tools and associated supporting infrastructure.

The 2017 hurricane season was a historic and record-breaking series of storms that had a significant impact to the Gulf of Mexico region. Hurricane Harvey took a significant toll on Texas and the rest of Gulf through the loss of life and the estimated $125 billion in damages. In response to Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Maritime Administration, acting on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), activated training ships from New York Maritime College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and Texas A&M Maritime Academy to support recovery operations.

The ships from the New York and Massachusetts academies, each capable of housing 600 disaster response professionals, took over two weeks to travel to their mission destinations, delaying valuable recovery operations to severely-impacted areas. The Texas A&M Maritime Academy ship was already in place but only had the capacity to support 35 FEMA workers. Hurricane Harvey highlighted the immense lack of a federal response capability in the Gulf that exists elsewhere in the U.S. While Texas A&M Maritime Academy does provide some of these capabilities, it is completely inadequate at providing the berthing and messing capabilities necessary to respond properly to disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Sandy, and Harvey. A suitable training and response vessel at Texas A&M Maritime Academy would provide quick and efficient assistance to major cities along the Gulf.

To meet the training needs of the Gulf Coast region’s maritime industry and to better aid in disaster response, The Texas A&M Maritime Academy looks forward to working with MARAD and Congress to procure a new national security multi-mission vessel (NSMV). The new vessel would directly support the training of cadets, support maritime workforce development along the Gulf Coast and inland U.S. waterways, and would be a part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), available to respond to natural disasters in the Gulf and Caribbean regions.

The request needs the support of not only former students, but also maritime industry stakeholders and communities along the Gulf Coast that are vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters. To learn more about the Texas A&M Maritime Academy program, please visit www.tamug.edu/corps/ and schedule a visit, or email corpsinfo@tamug.edu to request how you can help Texas A&M Maritime Academy acquire the right vessel to support cadet training and Gulf Coast preparedness.

 

  • Date June 6, 2018
  • Tags 2018 May