A ceremony late last year signaled good news for U.S. shipbuilding.
Philly Shipyard – a union facility – on Dec. 10 conducted a keel-laying event for the first of up to five state-of-the-art training vessels for the nation’s state maritime academies. SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez attended the ceremony, along with a wide range of guests from the industry, government and the military.
“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,” the shipyard noted in a joint news release with TOTE Services, the vessel construction manager.
“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 her operating life. The first NSMV is scheduled to be delivered to SUNY Maritime College in 2023. Steinar Nerbovik, president and CEO of Philly Shipyard, stated, “Today represents a momentous achievement in U.S. maritime education and a significant investment in the local economy and job creation.”
According to the release, “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, Pennsylvania, 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 at sea.
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,” the agency reported. “As an industry leader in vessel services, ship management and marine operations, TOTE Services will oversee development of these new vessels, which will provide a strong U.S. maritime fleet, crewed by the world’s best-trained merchant mariners.” 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.
“TOTE Services’ contract with MARAD demonstrates a new acquisition process to federal shipbuilding, where the government benefits from commercial best practices to design and construct vessels that are built by union labor in a U.S. shipyard with U.S.-made steel and U.S.- made engines,” said TOTE Services President Jeff Dixon. “Our aim is straight – we’re committed to the success of this program and to delivering these vessels for MARAD, so that our future cadets have the modern training platforms they deserve.”
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.