Trump Administration Budget Proposal Includes Funding for New MMA Training Vessel

BUZZARDS BAY – A $300 million addition in President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget could lead to a new training vessel for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

The proposed funding for federal Maritime Administration would be used to convert two shipping hulls to replace the T.S. Kennedy, which is more than 50 years old, and an even older vessel, the Empire State IV, operated by the State University of New York Maritime College.

“It would be designed to be built as a training ship as opposed to an old converted freighter,” said Admiral Fran McDonald, the president of MMA. “And it would be built to do a little bit of a better job when pressed into service by Homeland Security.”

The Kennedy was used to provide humanitarian aid after major hurricanes last fall devastated Texas and Puerto Rico.

McDonald said there are also discussions with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to secure even more funding to be able to construct a brand new training vessel.

“We are hoping we can move this forward and time will tell through the FY19 cycle which will take place over the next six months,” McDonald said.

The training vessels are owned by the Maritime Administration and are loaned to the state maritime academies.

“It really is a wonderful federal/state/citizen partnership where we take care of the asset and get students the time they need at sea,” McDonald said. “And the feds end up with a ship that is well maintained and ready to go for other national emergencies like we saw last fall.”

McDonald said either path to a new training vessel would be beneficial to future students.

“If it’s a five-year-old hull and the rest of it is new build that is still a huge step forward compared to a 50-year-old ship,” he said. “If we are fortunate enough to get a brand new build all the way the life cycle costs will actually be a little less but it has a little more up front costs.”

The Kennedy is currently headed to a Brooklyn shipyard for repairs before it heads to Texas A&M to be used for a semester at sea.

MMA’s annual Sea Term concluded at the end of last month.

The nearly two-month voyage allows cadets to put into practice what they have learned at the academy and handle operations of the vessel.

Ports of call were made in Columbia, Barbados, St. Thomas and Tampa. A humanitarian aid drop was also made in Haiti.

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