The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation:
(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced today that the Departmentâ€™s Maritime Administration (MARAD) has started preparing the Alakai, a combined cargo and passenger ship built for ferry service in the Hawaiian Islands, for relief duty in Haiti. The ship will be crewed with U.S. civilian mariners.
â€œThis ship will help our relief workers on the ground by allowing quick movements of people in and out of Haiti from various staging points,â€ said Secretary LaHood â€œIt is another example of why our countryâ€™s merchant marine is so important.â€
The Alakai is a high-speed passenger and vehicle ferry, originally built for a specific service in the Hawaiian Islands. It is capable of carrying up to 866 passengers, as well as relief cargo at a top speed of nearly 40 knots in the open ocean. The catamaran hull gives the ship great stability in the water. It is currently undergoing preparations to leave its current location in Norfolk, VA.
â€œWe are coordinating with our fellow agencies to make sure the merchant marine is giving them everything they need,â€ Acting Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda stated. â€œI am pleased that we can aid in this important effort while putting U.S. mariners to work on this distinctive ship.â€
The Alakai joins five other MARAD ships activated over the past week: the Gopher State and the Cornhusker State, based in Newport News, VA; Cape May and Huakai, which are sailing from Norfolk, VA, and Petersburg, which is based in Alameda, CA. Details can be found on MARADâ€™s website: http://www.marad.dot.gov/haiti_relief.
MARAD is unique in its worldwide capabilities, maintaining fleets and expertise in support of the US military and emergency operations. Its mission is to promote the development of the American maritime industry, including its workforce. The agency also operates the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York.