KINGS POINT, NY, June 17, 2014 – Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Acting Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen visited the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to celebrate the rechristening of the Academy’s new training vessel, the Kings Pointer. They were joined Rear Admiral James Helis, Superintendent, as well as Senator Charles Schumer and Representatives Timothy Bishop and Steve Israel.
“The new Kings Pointer is yet another example of this Administration’s commitment to ensuring first-rate training and facilities for the Academy’s midshipmen,” said Secretary Foxx. “With this modern vessel, the USMMA will continue to produce the finest mariners in the world, helping ensure our national and economic security.”
The Obama Administration has made a comprehensive effort to renew facilities and teaching infrastructure at the nation’s maritime academy. Since FY 2009, the Obama Administration has invested more than $450 million at the Academy, including almost $100 million for capital improvements— the most funding ever secured for physical improvements at the Academy.
The Kings Pointer was retrofitted as a training vessel at North Florida Shipyard at a cost of $3.3 million. Today’s rechristening follows the recent dedication of the Academy’s newly replaced Mallory Pier. Before being redesigned to serve as a training vessel for students, the former MV Liberty Star served as a solid rocket booster recovery vessel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), retrieving solid rocket boosters following space shuttle launches.
“The Merchant Marine Academy has been a treasured part of this country since Congress commissioned its establishment in 1936,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “It is quite literally, the jewel of the sea, and given the continued role that Congress plays in its operations, it’s my responsibility as Senator to do everything I can to see this institution flourish. I'm thrilled to have worked in recent years to address three key issues at the Academy: finding inspiring leadership through a permanent Superintendent, rehabilitating Mallory Pier, and today bringing back the Kings Pointer, this critical training vessel. It's a banner day for the Merchant Marine Academy.”
“The USMMA is the crown jewel of my Congressional District because of the tradition of service and professionalism of its midshipmen and this institution,” said U.S. Congressman Steve Israel. “The new Kings Pointer will ensure that midshipmen continue to receive superb training and preparation for serving our nation.”
“I am proud to join Secretary Foxx and Admiral Helis today as we rechristen the Kings Pointer,” said Congressman Tim Bishop. “Each year, we send our best and brightest to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to train to become our nation's next military and transportation leaders. This vessel will provide a vital expansion of that training.”
The vessel’s sponsor was Mrs. Jan Ryan Helis. After thanking the Acting Maritime Administrator for the great honor, she cracked a bottle of champagne against the bow and said, “I christen thee Kings Pointer”. The crowd of faculty, staff, alumni and midshipmen responded with a loud cheer.
Propelled by two combined 2,900 horsepower diesel engines, the 176-foot long, newly-christened Kings Pointer has a 6,000 mile range and a maximum speed of 15 knots. The ship’s controllable pitch propellers and auxiliary water jet thruster, combined with modern joy-stick dynamic positioning capability provide midshipmen a highly maneuverable training platform. The vessel has a 7,500 pound deck crane, which is an ideal tool for providing a basic understanding of modern cargo operations. It also has a fast rescue boat, which can provide midshipman critical experience in general launch operations. In addition, the vessel’s double towing winch, substantial towing H bitts, and a massive towing fairlead add significant new towing training capabilities to the Academy’s portfolio.