TOTE to oversee construction of new academy training ships


In May, the Maritime Administration (MarAd) awarded a $39.1 million contract to TOTE Services to oversee the construction of a new class of training ships for the nation’s maritime academies.

The vessel construction manager (VCM) contract has a price ceiling of $1.75 billion and contains a requirement for five national security multi-mission vessels (NSMVs). TOTE will select a U.S. shipyard for the project under guidelines set by Congress, according to MarAd.

Congress has allocated $600 million to fund the construction of two NSMVs, one for the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College and one for Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said the investment in NSMVs represents a bipartisan endorsement of a strong merchant marine and a shipbuilding sector that contributes over $37 billion annually to the gross domestic product.

“We anticipate that the construction of the NSMVs will encourage more private investment in shipbuilding, to further modernize, grow and improve our nation’s shipyards,” he said.

In addition to helping mariners train and gain sea time, NSMVs will assist in federal disaster relief efforts, according to MarAd.

“TOTE has a long history of supporting maritime academy training programs and disaster relief missions in conjunction with MarAd,” said TOTE Services President Jeff Dixon. “We’re confident in our ability to deliver on the NSMV and are excited to again work with MarAd on this important initiative.”

A MarAd representative could not disclose the other companies that applied for the VCM contract, saying the information is sensitive.

Capt. Mark Woolley, chief of staff at SUNY Maritime, said cadets will benefit from training on a new ship. SUNY’s current training vessel, Empire State VI, is 57 years old.

“The modern fleet of ships that these students are going to (work on) are primarily diesel ships, and we’re sailing on a steam ship,” Woolley said. “We really need the modern engineering.”

MarAd anticipates delivery of the first NSMV to SUNY Maritime in late 2022. Delivery of the second NSMV to Massachusetts Maritime is expected in 2023.

TOTE will likely select a shipyard by the end of this year, according to MarAd. The Shipbuilders Council of America could not comment on the specific yards in the running for construction, but SCA President Matthew Paxton said the project is important to the overall shipyard industrial base.

“While our industry cares immensely about America’s ability to build large Navy and Coast Guard vessels … it is also equally important that we maintain and promote the construction of large oceangoing commercial vessels,” Paxton said.

American shipyards, he added, have recapitalized and continue to build innovative containerships that serve Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

TOTE recently worked with General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego to construct two containerships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe, which operate between Jacksonville, Fla., and Puerto Rico, were delivered in 2015 and 2016, respectively. NASSCO is also building two 870-foot container/roll-on/roll-off ships (con-ros) for Matson for Jones Act service to Hawaii.

An agreement between TOTE and Philly Shipyard to construct four containerships for the Hawaii trade ended in cancellation last year.

The construction of the newbuilds for the Puerto Rico and Hawaii routes “was outfitted by suppliers from coast to coast and took place in U.S. shipyards. The U.S. needs to continue that innovation with the building of the NSMVs,” Paxton said.

By Professional Mariner Staff