(SEATTLE) — From hearty meals to comfortable sleeping quarters for first responders, Foss Maritime has been supporting the relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Foss Maritime has been working in conjunction with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide housing and fresh meals to hundreds of first responders.
In the months since the storms hit in September, Foss has used three accommodation vessels as “floating hotels” for hundreds of workers during the recovery work — including workers from the U.S. Department of Defense, FEMA and AmeriCorps — providing food, comfort and a place to sleep after long shifts. Two Foss vessels served as sleeping quarters, while a third was used for food preparation and support. The oceangoing tugs Lauren Foss and Corbin Foss stood alongside to provide additional support, along with Foss employees and subcontractors who provided catering, laundry and cleaning for relief workers’ rooms.
In addition to caring for responders, Foss also produced around 3,000 boxed meals a day. To help support economic recovery, the meals included local ingredients whenever possible. Bread was purchased from local bakeries and meat and other perishables were sourced from nearby businesses. A local milk delivery company was hired by FEMA to deliver the meals throughout the communities.
“We hear stories everyday about the work that is being done, and what still needs to be done — especially in the mountain regions,” said Mike Lauer, director of marine transportation project services for Foss. “We’re happy and proud to be part of these efforts. Most of the responders are working non-stop, 12 hours or more a day, every single day. It’s exhausting work, so Foss has focused on making sure everyone is well-fed and comfortable, with a place to rest.”
Ninety-five percent of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was destroyed in the storms, with the interior most hard-hit. Ongoing rehabilitation of the island, support for its people and the restoration of its economy will take time, but services are starting to return as workers make progress. Puerto Rico's main energy ports — Yabucoa, Ponce, Guayanilla and San Juan — have all reopened for business. Communications are coming back online as are cellular networks. Electrical equipment is being delivered to ports so the extensive damage can be repaired.
“This has been an impressive undertaking,” said Lauer from Ponce, Puerto Rico where he was on-hand to assist in operations. “There are an incredible amount of volunteers, through groups like FEMA Core, AmeriCorps and others that are in the communities every day, knocking on doors, educating people about resources, and providing every kind of aid—even cutting trees out of homes. The thing that has made the largest impression on me is just how much our federal government is doing for Puerto Rico. Honestly, being here and seeing this, it makes me thankful to be an American citizen.”
Although FEMA contracts are wrapping up, Foss will remain in the region to assist as needed through continuing recovery efforts.