SUNY Maritime training ship returns from hurricane relief


The following is the text of a news release from the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College:

(THROGGS NECK, N.Y.) — After nearly two months spent in Florida and Puerto Rico, SUNY Maritime College’s training ship Empire State VI will return to campus Tuesday, Oct. 24. 

Empire State VI was activated to assist with the Hurricane Harvey response effort in Texas on Sept. 1. Before the ship arrived in Texas, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and the mission was altered to assist in the Florida recovery efforts instead. After approximately two weeks in Florida, Empire State was sent to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At both locations, the ship was used to provide power, housing, food and water to emergency relief workers. By housing the responders on the ship, area hotel rooms were made available to people displaced by the storms. Thanks to a statewide donation campaign, led by Gov. Cuomo and the State University of New York, Empire State VI also brought 46 pallets of bottled water, food and other items for victims of the hurricane. Approximately half of the pallets came from the SUNY drive; the rest came from the state-wide campaign led by the governor’s office.

The supplies were donated to Puerto Rico through United for Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization established in the wake of Hurricane Maria by Puerto Rican first lady Beatriz Rossello. 

Empire State VI is used by the maritime college throughout the year as a platform to educate and train future maritime industry professionals. The ship is owned by the Maritime Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation. In times of national need, the federal government can activate the ship to assist with response and recovery efforts. Empire State was activated to respond to Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“(The) maritime college is honored and proud to have had the opportunity to assist in these recovery efforts,” said Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime. “The past two months demonstrate the value of the state maritime academy training ships in times of national need such as these, as well as training America’s future mariners. I am pleased to welcome home Capt. Rick Smith and the crew of the Empire State VI and to thank them for their service.”

In addition to the crew of professional mariners, including eight SUNY Maritime alumni, when the ship returns, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson will be on board. She and several others from SUNY and Maritime College will board the ship near Staten Island for the trip up the East River.

“This is a proud moment for Maritime College, SUNY, and all of New York State as we welcome home the crew of the Empire State VI,” said Johnson. “Every individual on this ship selflessly put their personal lives on hold for the past two months – in many cases leaving their family and friends – to support the relief efforts and begin to repair the damage caused by multiple hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean. It will be my honor to join them for the final leg of their homecoming sail and to personally thank President Alfultis, Capt. Rick Smith, and the crew of the Empire State VI for a job extraordinarily well done.”

By Professional Mariner Staff