An ship formerly used by NASA to recover solid rocket boosters from the Space Shuttle will become the new training ship at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Maritime Administrator David Matsuda toured the Liberty Star
on Friday as the ship was displayed to academy midshipmen, parents, and alumni, many of whom were present for Parent's Weekend at the school. The ship had sailed to the school from Florida earlier in the week.
"I know there were a lot of doubters who never thought we were going to have an opportunity to have another vessel so quickly," LaHood said. The prior training vessel was transferred to the Texas Maritime Academy this year.
Academy officials said the new ship will be renovated and additional berths added. They said the ship will be able to be put to sea quickly so that students will be able to use it on a regular basis, for example, taking it out into Long Island Sound even if a class only lasts two hours.
The 176-foot-long ship is equipped with a dynamic positioning system, which school officials said could be useful to Kings Point students who in their later careers might work on drillships, oil field-support vessels, oceanographic research vessels, and cruise ships, or in subsea construction and offshore wind power industry.
LaHood said Congress has awarded $12 million to $15 million in recent years to repair facilities at the school, including dormitories and the mess hall. On Friday, LaHood announced the award of an $11.5 million contract to repair Mallory Pier where the new training ship will be docked.
Students at the school "have an opportunity for some of the best teaching, best professors, some of the best academics--that has never been in dispute about the Merchant Marine Academy," LaHood said. "The problems here have been a lot more about the facilities than the academics."
The school is preparing a contract request to have the ship modified to increase the number of berths and undergo classification inspections. Eventually the ship will be renamed Kingspointer
as previous training vessels have. - Chris Dupin