Haiti and Chile Earthquakes

Secretary LaHood Announces U.S. Merchant Marine Mobilizing for Haiti Relief

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–January 18, 2010.  Today U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that the Department’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) is sending five ships to assist with relief efforts in Haiti.  Gopher State, Petersburg, Huakai, Cornhusker State and Cape May are being prepared to sail to the Caribbean Ocean from different parts of the United States.  All are owned or controlled by MARAD, and will be crewed by civilian U.S. merchant mariners.

“Sending these ships will help those on the front line of this effort save as many lives in Haiti as possible,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.  “These ships will add crucial capabilities by supporting operations to move large volumes of people and cargo.”

“Once again the U.S. Merchant Marine is answering the call for assistance, as it has done since our Nation began,” said Acting Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda.    “These ships and skilled crews are ideally suited to assist in Haiti by providing unique capabilities.  One cargo ship can carry as much as 400 fully loaded cargo planes.”

M/V Huakai is a new high-speed ferry capable of speeds of nearly 40 knots in the open ocean.  Petersburg, Cornhusker State, Cape May and Gopher State are part of MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force (RRF), which includes a total of forty-nine ships at ports around the country.  Additional details on the RRF, and Petersburg, Cape May, Cornhusker State and Gopher State can be found at: http://www.marad.dot.gov/documents/RRF_FLEET_PAMPHLET.pdf

The Maritime Administration is unique in its worldwide capabilities, maintaining fleets and expertise in support of the US military and emergency operations.  Its mission is to promote the development of the American maritime industry, including its workforce.  The agency also operates the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. ###


  • M/V Huakai is a new high-speed passenger and vehicle ferry capable of speeds of nearly 40 knots in the open ocean.  It was obtained by the Maritime Administration when a Hawaiian ferry company failed and abandoned it.  Since late last week it has been undergoing preparations in Norfolk, VA.
  • MV Gopher State is a TACS crane ship based in Norfolk, VA.  The crane ships were designed to provide the capability to load and unload containers and other cargo in ports where facilities are badly damaged or nonexistent.  Their most notable features are the three independent twin-boom pedestal-mounted rotating hydraulic deck cranes.  These crane ships can also carry containers, small barges, or landing craft, and recent exercises have proven their capability to discharge container ships far from any port, which enhances their military usefulness.  RRF crane ships bear the nicknames of states in the United States: the Gopher State honors Minnesota.
  • MV Cornhusker State is also a TACS crane ship based in Norfolk, VA.  The Cornhusker State honors Nebraska.  It previously served in Haiti during Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY in 1994.
  • OPDS Petersburg is an Offshore Petroleum Discharge System tanker based in Alameda, CA.  It has been specially modified to deliver petroleum products to military forces in areas where port facilities are damaged or non-existent.   Within 48 hours of arrival on station, OPDS can be installed and commence pumping 1.2 million gallons per day from up to four miles off shore and at water depths down to 200 feet. If the ship is moored within two nautical miles of the shore, two different products may be pumped simultaneously through two separate conduits.
  • The SS Cape May is a Norfolk, VA-based sea barge clipper class (SEABEE) vessel, so that its characteristic cargo is barges, as well as sections of causeway, and other materials used by the Construction Battalions (Seabees) of the U.S. Navy.  SEABEEs are militarily useful vessels capable of lifting outsized objects, such as 90-foot causeway sections or 110-foot Coast Guard patrol boats.  Their most notable feature is the 2,000-ton submersible elevator at the stern.  SEABEE ships are unique because of their ability to carry a vast array of military cargo.  SEABEE barges, causeway sections, and lighterage comprise the usual cargo; SEABEE barges can carry bulk and containerized cargo. Each barge has a capacity of 834 long tons.

During the Haitian crisis in 1994, a total of 15 MARAD ships were activated for operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY.  In 2005, nine Maritime Administration ships supported support relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  The ships provided meals and shelter for workers, emergency response teams and longshoremen, providing about 83,000 berths and 270,000 meals over 6 months.


Source: dot.gov