America's merchant fleet is an essential part of our transportation system, a key player in our economy, and an important resource in our national defense. For more than seven decades, the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, has trained young men and women for careers at sea in the service of our nation and instilled in them the discipline, skill, and character to become leaders in the maritime industry.
Since taking office, this Administration has made a comprehensive effort to renew the Academy's facilities and teaching resources. Today, Kings Point has secured a new training vessel--the MV Liberty Star--that will help the Academy's midshipmen take their preparation to the next level.
As Senator Charles Schumer, a staunch champion of the Academy, said, “When we toured the Academy, I asked for three things, and today we are batting 3-for-3: we have a new superintendent in place, we were able to increase capital funding in the senate appropriations bill and now we have a new training vessel on its way.”
Those familiar with the historic U.S. Space Shuttle program will recognize the Liberty Star as one of NASA's two solid rocket booster recovery vessels. Along with its twin, the MV Freedom Star, Liberty Star played a vital role in NASA's shuttle missions, positioning itself 140 miles offshore of Cape Canaveral in advance of shuttle launches to retrieve the two 146-foot, 200,000-pound reusable booster casings ejected during shuttle flight.
After shipyard work to add sleeping berths and other training features, the Liberty Star will immediately add tremendous value to the Academy. Marking the transfer agreement between NASA and DOT's Maritime Administration, Academy Superintendent Rear Admiral James Helis said, "This state-of-the-art training vessel will help us provide the best education and hands-on experience for our future maritime leaders.”
The MV Liberty Star will provide a hands-on learning environment for midshipmen to train using modern navigational technology and advanced hoisting and towing techniques. As MARAD Administrator David Matsuda said, “The ship's high tech equipment and real world capabilities closely mirror what graduates will see entering the maritime workforce.”
And because the Liberty Star will remain on call for future NASA missions, midshipmen will have the opportunity to get at-sea experience with commercial crews and NASA technicians. “This agreement is a win for both Kings Point and NASA,” said Administrator Matsuda.
I couldn't agree more, but it's also a win for the nation. When the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduates maritime professionals who are better prepared for their careers, both America's economy and our national defense are stronger for it.