New Tanker, T-AKE Vessel Delivered

August 2010

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The SIU-contracted tanker Empire State was christened July 14 at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company yard in San Diego, and the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Charles Drew was delivered by NASSCO the same day.

The Empire State is the fourth in a series of five tankers being operated by Crowley for American Petroleum Tankers LLC. The Charles Drew is the 10th in a series of 14 Lewis and Clark-class vessels, which are crewed in the unlicensed slots by members of the SIU Government Services Division.

While both of the new ships are praiseworthy, the christening and delivery were bittersweet occasions. Hundreds of employees and sub-contractors were laid off at the shipyard that same week.

Nevertheless, the Empire State and Charles Drew appropriately were welcomed, and the shipyard employees credited, by keynote speaker Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander, U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC).

“Empire State will be carrying petroleum products for the Department of Defense under the operational control of Military Sealift Command,” Buzby pointed out. “This ship, flying the U.S. flag, means more jobs for our U.S. Merchant Mariners and increased capabilities for Military Sealift Command and the Navy. The need for a strong U.S. maritime industry to build the ships in which those merchant mariners will sail is as crucial to America today as it was 230 years ago when the first sea engagement of our American Revolution was fought by civilian mariners aboard the privately-owned sloop, Unity.

“I look forward to a second state-class ship, MT Evergreen State, when it begins working for us next year,” he continued. “We’ll be building a great partnership with American Petroleum Tankers, another plus for the defense of America. Both tankers will be operated for us by our good shipmates at Crowley. It’s good to know we’ve got two solid ships coming to work for us.”

The MSC commander also expressed his appreciation for the Charles Drew and for “the hard work performed by the dedicated people in this shipyard as they continue to build the next four dry cargo/ammunition ships in the Lewis and Clark class, as well as their work the state-class tankers. We’re all in this together, from ship builder to ship financier to ship owner to ship operator to ship customer. It’s a partnership that builds a stronger defense for our nation, and Military Sealift Command is glad to be part of it.”

NASSCO President Fred Harris, always quick to enthusiastically recognize the shipyard’s employees, described the layoffs as “a tremendous loss of highly trained, highly skilled craftsmen and women…. The entire NASSCO team is working very hard to bring new business into the shipyard.”

Harris said that even though shipyard personnel had known for a while that “we would face tough economic challenges this summer, the entire NASSCO team has done an outstanding job. Everyone pulled together and focused on the task at hand to build the highest-quality, best-value product carriers in the U.S. today.”

The Empire State is 600 feet long and has a cargo capacity of approximately 331,000 barrels. It is a double-hulled ship that entered service the same week as its christening.

The USNS Charles Drew is 689 feet long and is expected to operate in the Pacific. The currently deployed T-AKEs operate as part of MSC’s combat logistics force – allowing Navy ships to stay at sea, on station and combat ready for extended periods of time.

Christened and launched in late February, the Drew is named for Dr. Charles Drew, an American physician regarded as the father of the blood bank, who developed methods of blood collection, plasma processing and storage.

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