KINGS POINT, N.Y., April 17, 2014 – On Saturday evening, the T/V Kings Pointer, the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s (USMMA) newest training vessel tied up at her home port, Kings Point. The vessel, formerly the M/V Liberty Star, once served as a Solid Rocket Booster Recovery Vessel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On September 14th, 2012, she arrived at Kings Point and was transferred to the Academy during a formal Plaque and Key ceremony. “We are thrilled to finally have the T/V Kings Pointer back at Kings Point and are also very pleased to see her tied up at a brand new Mallory Pier,” said Rear Admiral James A. Helis, Superintendent. “The newest Kings Pointer will be an integral part of the training and development of our midshipmen. It will complement and enhance the Sea-Year experience of every Kings Pointer.”
Since September 2012, the vessel has been very busy. The ship departed for North Florida Shipyard in Jacksonville in late December 2012 to complete the retrofit that would to bring her into compliance with U.S. Coast Guard regulations for training ships and to improve the vessel's training utility. Then the ship was moved to the St. John’s Boat Club to complete the installation of student berthing, hospital space, and a new rescue boat. After each phase of the project was completed, CDR Chris Gasiorek, Director of the USMMA Waterfront, and his staff, along with professional crew, including Alumni and friends of the Academy conducted local sea trials. The final sea trials were conducted when the ship departed Jacksonville, bound for the James River Reserve Fleet in November of 2013. This final sea trial also served as the T/V Kings Pointer’s first training cruise. It was an exciting trip for the crew.
The training mission ended at Ft. Eustis on the James River where the T/V Kings Pointer joined the James River Reserve Fleet (JRRF) and tied up starboard side to her sister ship, NASA’s M/V Freedom Star. The next voyage for the T/V Kings Pointer was supposed to be her return to the Academy sometime in the spring of 2014. However, January 4th, the Captain was put on notice about a possible activation in support of the M/V Cape Ray’s activation as part of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Destruction Mission. In just three days the T/V Kings Pointer had to be fully crewed and ready for sea.
The reserve M/V Cape Ray had been activated and fitted with mobile hydrolysis units for the destruction of chemical weapons and would be doing a 4-5 day sea trial with more personnel aboard than her safety equipment would support. The USCG would only allow the mission to proceed if there was a rescue / standby vessel nearby. T/V Kings Pointer, with her two support boats, low and open deck and ability to maneuver in close quarters to personnel in the water was a perfect match for the mission.
The ship handled the seas well, and stayed in a position to support the M/V Cape Ray, while staying in protected waters to keep the ship and crew in a condition to support the mission. T/V Kings Pointer returned to her berth at the James River Reserve Fleet on Tuesday morning January 14th, and was returned to lay-up status awaiting her next mission – delivery to the new Mallory Pier at Kings Point.
Finally, last Friday April 11th, the T/V Kings Pointer got underway and headed home. The crew was comprised of Kings Point Waterfront Staff, Alums, and AMO crew provided by AMSEA, the vessel’s General Agent. In addition there were 11 Midshipmen who made the voyage. T/V Kings Pointer departed the James River Reserve Fleet Pier at Fort Eustis, VA on the morning of Friday April 11th, slipping her last line at 0830. T/V Kings Pointer was all secure at the Academy at 1840 Saturday afternoon.
Johathan Kabak, Master said, “throughout this entire period we were incredibly fortunate to have the services of Mark Sorochynskyj, Chief Engineer, who is remaining aboard to sail as Chief under the General Agent Contract. While the vessel was at the JRRF, she received tremendous support from William Ingram of MARAD, and Butch Haywood and the rest of the JRRF staff who were acknowledged during a ceremony appreciation where Jeff McMahon presented them with the U. S. Maritime Administration’s Certificate of Appreciation.”