(PHILADELPHIA) — TOTE Services on Friday marked a significant construction milestone at a keel-laying ceremony at Philly Shipyard for the first of up to five new purpose-built, state-of-the-art training vessels for America’s state maritime academies.
These new vessels – known as national security multi-mission vessels (NSMVs) – are designed to provide world-class training for America’s future mariners and to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in times of need.
“Today’s first NSMV keel laying is a critical milestone in an innovative effort that is producing state-of-the-art vessels in an American shipyard that will both train the next generation of American mariners and provide a new disaster response capability for the nation,” said Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. “We commend everyone who is working hard to keep this effort on schedule and on budget, and we look forward to the final delivery of the first ship.”
The keel laying is a ceremonial recognition in which the first grand block of the vessel is loaded into the building dock. Keel-laying traditions are said to bring good luck to the ship during construction and to the captain, crew and cadets that will sail on the vessel throughout its operating life. The first NSMV is scheduled to be delivered to SUNY Maritime College in 2023.
“As part of shipbuilding tradition, the keel-laying ceremony invites good luck in the construction and life of a ship as the first prefabricated block is lowered into the building dock,” said Steinar Nerbovik, president and CEO of Philly Shipyard. “Today, represents a momentous achievement in U.S. maritime education and a significant investment in the local economy and job creation.”
The NSMV is an important investment in America’s shipbuilding industry, which supports nearly 400,000 U.S. jobs. Each NSMV will be built using 7,000 metric tons of steel produced by U.S. mills and fabricated by skilled labor. The first of four main generator engines, manufactured by Wabtec Corp. in Grove City, Pa., recently arrived at the shipyard and will be lowered into the hull in the first quarter of 2022.
The NSMV will feature numerous instructional spaces, a full training bridge, and accommodations for up to 600 cadets to train in a first-rate maritime academic environment at sea. State maritime academies graduate more than half of all new officers each year — the merchant mariners who help keep cargoes and our economy moving. Many also support U.S. national security by crewing military sealift vessels.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MarAd) selected TOTE Services to be the vessel construction manager for the NSMV program in May 2019 to ensure the utilization of best practices in commercial ship construction. In April 2020, TOTE Services awarded Philly Shipyard a contract to construct up to five NSMVs. These ships will be owned and operated by MarAd.
Congress has appropriated funding to replace aging training vessels at SUNY Maritime College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy and Texas A&M Maritime Academy, respectively. TOTE Services retains an option for a fifth NSMV for the California State University Maritime Academy, if additional funding is appropriated by Congress.
– TOTE Services