The following is the text of a news release from American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier (ARC):
(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — In a ceremony Friday in the Port of Charleston, American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier christened M/V Liberty, welcoming one of the most versatile and militarily-useful ships to the U.S.-flag commercial fleet, along with close friends and allies from the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, maritime labor, and a myriad of customers and business partners.
ARC President and CEO Eric Ebeling welcomed guests to the Port of Charleston, a fitting venue as Charleston is a unique port for ARC due to its handling of large volumes of both commercial and military cargoes. South Carolina Ports Jim Newsome was on hand to welcome Capt. Kenneth DeGroff and the rest of the ship’s officers and crew to Charleston.
The keynote address was delivered by Elaine Chao, the U.S. secretary of transportation.
“On behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration, I congratulate the ARC team and welcome M/V Liberty to the Maritime Security Program (MSP) fleet,” said Chao. “(M/V) Liberty’s entry into the MSP has substantially increased our ability to meet key U.S. Department of Defense force projection requirements. And Liberty is the eighth ARC vessel to enter the MSP, joining seven others already in service. So let me also acknowledge the contributions of ARC to the MSP, national defense, and the U.S. Merchant Marine.”
Speeches were also heard from ARC’s labor partners, President Michael Sacco of the Seafarers International Union (SIU) and Vice President Christian Spain of the American Maritime Officers (AMO), as well as Lt. Gen. Stephen Lyons, the deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command. The vessel sponsor was the first lady of South Carolina, Peggy McMaster.
“We’re totally dedicated to our role as America’s fourth arm of defense, and we are committed to helping ensure the success of our contracted operators," Sacco said. "On that note, I congratulate Eric (Ebeling) and his whole team at ARC. On behalf of everyone at the SIU, we respect and appreciate your commitment to American-flag shipping. We also value your partnership as we work together to help revitalize the U.S. Merchant Marine.”
Lyons, the deputy commander of TRANSCOM, said, “ARC plays a significant role in our nation’s commitment to the security of our nation and our NATO allies. We can’t underestimate the strategic impact of global images depicting the arrival of an armored brigade combat team on ARC’s Resolve, Endurance, and Freedom, or the arrival of a combat air brigade on Endurance and Honor. And now we are happy to welcome Liberty to the fleet.”
Formerly M/V Topeka, M/V Liberty was reflagged to American registry on Jan. 31 as the eighth ro-ro vessel in ARC’s fleet. The reflag was conducted by the Coast Guard in the port of Bremerhaven, Germany. The vessel is enrolled in the Maritime Security Program (MSP), the congressional maritime readiness program, and the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA). Consistent with past practice to name ARC ships after American values, it was renamed M/V Liberty.
Ebeling referenced the decline of the U.S.-flag fleet over the past years from approximately 120 ships to the current 81 vessels, as cargo volumes have declined due to the changing overseas military footprint, lack of a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank, and other factors, but noted “with this incredible partnership between industry, labor, DOT and DOD … there is good cause for optimism for the renewal of the fleet, as represented by this great ship we’re celebrating here today.” In her remarks, Chao concurred, adding “I know of no better public-private partnership” than MSP.
M/V Liberty is 656 feet long with a beam of 105 feet. The stern opening is 49 feet wide and 17 feet high, with a stern ramp rated for cargo up to 237 metric tons. The vessel is among the most capable and militarily-useful vessels in the U.S.-flag commercial fleet, able to carry tracked vehicles, helicopters, trucks and other military and high and heavy project cargoes.