New MSP Ship Shows ‘Commitment’


November 2016


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MV Patriot Reflects Program Strength, Sealift’s Importance


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The naming ceremony for the SIU-crewed MV Patriot proved suitably celebratory, but the featured speakers also cautioned that much work lies ahead in revitalizing the U.S. Merchant Marine.


The gathering took place Oct. 7 at the cruise terminal in Baltimore, very close to the roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ship that entered the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP) fleet earlier this year. Operated by Tote Services for vessel owner American Roll-On/Roll-Off Carrier (ARC), the Patriot was preparing to shove off for Bremerhaven the following day.


SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez (one of the speakers) and Vice President Atlantic Coast Joseph Soresi were among those in attendance, as was a group of apprentices from the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education.


Alan Estevez delivered the keynote address. He’s the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The other speakers were ARC CEO Eric Ebeling and Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen.


Vessel tours preceded the naming ceremony – and visitors came away impressed with the state-of-the-art, 653-foot-long vessel. Built in 2006, the Patriot features 13 decks plus crew accommodations including a sauna, pool and gym.


Tellez set the tone for many of the other remarks when he said that while Patriot is an appropriate name, the ship might just as easily have been called the Commitment “because that’s what she truly represents.” Tossing aside his prepared speech, he said the RO/RO signifies commitment on the part of ARC to its commercial partners for reliable, on-time delivery, and it also reflects assurance to the Department of Defense that modern ships and reliable crews are available to help meet tactical and strategic military goals.


“It’s a commitment by this company and by this program to the fighting men and women of this country,” Tellez said, “that they’ll have the materiel and supplies when needed to get their jobs done and come back home safely. It’s a commitment to the men and women who are going to work on this vessel and to the khaki-clad apprentices of the Paul Hall Center that they will be offered an opportunity to attain their piece of the American dream.


“Our commitment is going to be that when the balloon goes up and when we’re needed, the men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine are going to be there to answer the call,” he added.


He was lighthearted at times but turned serious in describing the teamwork needed to promote the U.S. Merchant Marine wherever needed, whether in the White House or Congress or any of the numerous agencies that affect the industry.


Estevez, whose wife sponsored the vessel, immediately picked up on that unofficial theme, addressing Tellez directly on the stage when he said, “You have my commitment to fight for mariners, to fight for sealift, to fight for this infrastructure like this port facility, because we in the United States cannot defend ourselves if we do not have that capability. We live in a dangerous world and it’s getting more dangerous.”


Estevez said the Defense Department “cannot do what we do on our own. We need commercial vessels; we need merchant mariners; and we need the infrastructure to go along with that, or we will not have the strategic capability that we need to support our forces.”


Like the other speakers, he credited civilian crews and commercial ships for sustaining U.S. forces in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he also described the MSP as a huge bargain to the American taxpayer.


“We would break the bank if we had to go out and buy vessels to replace the capacity that we are fortunate to have (through MSP),” he said.


Jaenichen said the ship “is representative of what the MSP is all about. The MSP is a cost-effective tool. It provides that guaranteed access to commercial sealift and the intermodal capabilities that come with it, necessary to meet both U.S. wartime and also contingency requirements.”


He declared that American-flag capacity “is absolutely vital to our national security. It enables the nation to project and to sustain our armed forces. More importantly, they get there on U.S.-flag vessels, crewed by U.S. mariners.”


Jaenichen also pointed out that a benefit of the MSP is it encourages the replacement of older vessels with more modern, capable ships. There have been 62 such replacements in the program’s 20-year history, meaning the entire fleet has been turned over.


The administrator also discussed the overall decline in U.S.-flag tonnage in recent years and echoed Tellez’s point about “having to do this together” when it comes to advancing the industry.


Ebeling pointed out the Patriot will support U.S. sealift requirements around the globe, and added the ceremony occurred 15 years to the day “that Operation Enduring Freedom commenced in Afghanistan. We are still fighting there today, and the U.S. military is currently engaged in numerous other operations and exercises to protect human rights and to promote freedom and democracy around the world. This great ship will assist in that mission.”


He continued, “The U.S.-flag commercial fleet has long been and remains the most cost-effective means of sealift available, saving the nation billions in capital and operating costs. Most critically, the American mariners that sail aboard these ships are the most reliable and dedicated in the business.”


Several of the SIU and AMO mariners aboard the ship described the vessel appreciatively.


Chief Steward Jayne Peterson, for instance, who has been a Seafarer since 1988, said, “This is one of the nicest galleys I’ve had. I’m not used to having such a big galley.”



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