New training ship

Congress on Monday approved $390 million for the construction of a new training vessel for the Texas Maritime Academy. The ship is expected to arrive in Galveston by 2025.

GALVESTON

Their ship finally came in.

After years of political wrangling in Washington, Texas A&M University at Galveston on Monday received news it had long hoped for: Congress had approved funding to build a brand new training ship.

As part of the $1.4 trillion appropriation act and COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress on Monday, the U.S. Maritime Administration received $390 million to fund the construction of a 525-foot ship called a National Security Multi-Mission Vessel.

Once built, the ship will be stationed at Texas A&M University’s Pelican Island campus and serve as the primary training vessel for the Texas Maritime Academy.

“This was the impossible dream,” said Texas A&M University Vice President Col. Mike Fossum, who leads the Galveston campus. “Until we have a ship that meets our needs, we’re not a first-rate program.”

Fossum stayed up until midnight Monday as he waited for the Senate vote to approve the 5,000-page spending bill, he said. Reference to funding for the new ship can be found in a single paragraph on page 1,618.

The new ship will feature eight classrooms, a training bridge, laboratories, an auditorium, hospital facilities and a cargo crane and will have the capacity to house up to 600 cadets at one time, Fossum said.

The ship is expected to arrive in Galveston in 2025. Before that, the university will have to make improvements to its waterfront to accommodate larger ships, Fossum said. The school plans to ask the Texas Legislature for funding for those improvements during next year’s legislative session, Fossum said.

Fossum and other Texas A&M University officials have lobbied Congress to give the Pelican Island campus a new ship. The Texas Maritime Academy is one of six federal maritime academies but is the only one without its own large training vessel.

In 2005, the school’s previous large training ship, the Texas Clipper II, left Galveston to support hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The ship, which was federally owned, was then reassigned as an Air Force support vessel.

Since then, the maritime academy has been making do with a much smaller training vessel, the TS General Rudder, and sending its students to serve on other ships to get the training hours necessary to earn their degrees and certifications.

Twice since 2016, the school arranged for the TS Golden Bear, a training ship from the California Maritime Academy, to sail to Galveston so local cadets could complete a training sail together.

But school officials have said those measures weren’t sustainable and were causing Texas A&M University at Galveston students to fall behind their peers at other schools.

The new ship will be able to handle “12 times” what the General Rudder can handle, Fossum said.

The university also has argued the ship is a necessary asset to help with government responses to hurricanes. The new ship could be dispatched to serve as a hospital ship or as housing for recovery workers, Fossum said. The nearest such ships to the Gulf of Mexico are stationed in Massachusetts and New York.

“These ships are at the beck and call of the federal government,” Fossum said of the new Texas A&M University ship and others that have been approved for maritime academies. “There’s no year like 2020 to realize how exposed and vulnerable the Gulf of Mexico is with all the storms this year.”

The Maritime Administration will decide the name of the ship, Fossum said.

But Fossum was holding out hope the government would help Texas A&M University at Galveston adhere to tradition and name the ship the Texas Clipper III.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(21) comments

Brian Maxwell

This is great news for my alma mater. Gig’em bad great job Col. Fossum!

Don Schlessinger

[thumbup]

Ronnie Stewart

What does this have to do with COVID-19 ?

Carlos Ponce

Pelosi Porkulous Package- The Sequel.

Gary Scoggin

Carlos, I went back and checked. The bill passed the Republican Senate as well.

Carlos Ponce

Yes it did. And did you check WHERE the pork originated. Hint: NOT THE SENATE.

Gary Scoggin

Carlos -- from John's note below it looks like the pork - if that's what you think it is, I don't - came from Republican Randy Weber. I'm willing to give credit to Weber for meeting the needs of his district. Now that this is shown to be Weber Pork, not Pelosi Pork, I wonder if you are too.

Carlos Ponce

Incorrect Gary Scoggin. It was part of the proposed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 written by Congressman Peter A DeFazio (D -OR).

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/7575/cosponsors?searchResultViewType=expanded

"Congress Funds Training Ship for Texas A&M. Congress on Monday approved $390 million to fund construction of a fourth National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV)."

Gary Miller

Most of this so called Covid relief bull is pork spending. Trump should veto it. If Biden becomes president a new porkulus will be passed in the house and defeated in the senate.

Bailey Jones

This isn't part of the COVID bill. It's part of the appropriations bill. The COVID relief is also attached to the appropriations bill.

johnferguson Staff
John Wayne Ferguson

Bailey is correct. This local news reporter misunderstood the amount in the spending package. Congress took one vote to spend $2.3 trillion. Of that, $1.4 trillion was for government spending, and $900 billion was for COVID relief.

The story has been updated.

Gary Scoggin

While I think this is great news for TAMUG and I have no problems with the appropriation of the ship in general, throwing it in the Coronavirus Relief bill is the kind of pork that undermines this legislation.

A question for John Ferguson: Have Rep. Weber and Sens. Cruz and Cornyn claimed any credit for this?

Gary Scoggin

A clarification I should have found before I posted. There were two spending bills passed. One for $900 B for Covid and another $1.4 Trillion general appropriations bill. It looks like this funding came from the appropriations bill and not the Covid Bill. So, I feel better.

Gary Miller

Gary S.> Is two porkulus bills passed together better than one?

Bailey Jones

Gary, as I understand it, this isn't part of the COVID bill. It's part of the appropriations bill. The COVID relief is also attached to the appropriations bill. Maybe GCDN can clarify this point.

johnferguson Staff
John Wayne Ferguson

Cruz and Weber didn't say anything publicly about the ship yesterday, but Weber has helped advocate for the project over the last few years.

David Schuler

Aesthetically challenged is the proper term. But 'ugly' immediately comes to mind.

Bailey Jones

Terrific news. [thumbup]

Gary Miller

Bailey> Great news for tax spenders, not so much for taxpayers.

Bailey Jones

It's not an expense, Gary M, it's an investment in our future.

Ted Gillis

I think this is great news. Now we (Galveston) needs to lobby Miles and Larry to get state funding to make the harbor improvements, otherwise she’ll have to park over by the cruise terminals.

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