Hurricane Recovery Response
The unparalleled destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the U.S. Gulf Coast called for an unprecedented response from MARAD and the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Training ships from the fleet's school ship program, ships from the RRF, and an additional ship from the National Defense Reserve Fleet were activated for missions designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The RRF ships Cape Knox and Cape Kennedy, which are based in New Orleans, weathered Hurricane Katrina successfully, and immediately offered a base of operations for the Port of New Orleans in the days that followed.
The RRF ship Diamond State was activated and sent to New Orleans to generate necessary electrical power and to unload the first ship to arrive after the hurricane. The following training ships provided meals and shelter for rescue and recovery workers, and also for port workers in the days after the storm: the State of Maine, from the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine; the Sirius, the newly-arrived school ship for the Texas Maritime Academy, Texas A & M at Galveston, Texas; and the Empire State, from the Maritime College of the State University of New York. The RRF ship Wright was activated to provide critically needed meals and shelter. The RRF ship Equality State was activated for the use of its cranes, and the RRF ship Cape Vincent, after bringing cargo into the area, was retained to provide meals and shelter for workers at the Port of St. Bernard, in Chalmette, Louisiana. These operations were vital in assisting the Ports of New Orleans and St. Bernard to resume operations, helping to accelerate the economic recovery.
The Cape Vincent entered Louisiana after participating in an unusual emergency management operation in the recovery of its home port, Beaumont, Texas, from the devastation of Hurricane Rita. Along with the Cape Victory, also home ported in Beaumont, the Cape Vincent loaded on board more than 225 emergency response vehicles for the Port of Beaumont, City of Beaumont, Jefferson County, and the neighboring cities of Nederland, Groves, and Port Neches. Weathering the hurricane, the emergency personnel and vehicles were ready to roll off the ships and begin rescue and recovery operations. Some emergency personnel who could not live in their own homes in the days after the storm stayed on the ships, where the captains provided meals and a place to sleep, and had washers and dryers installed. These measures made it possible for emergency services in the area to continue to operate at full efficiency, despite the enormous devastation.
The RRF is MARAD's most responsive sealift program using government-owned ships. Although the response to the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast marked the first time the RRF was activated for a domestic emergency, the RRF remained heavily involved in its established mission of supporting the U.S. Armed Forces in overseas movements, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, during FY 2005. Six ships continued operations from FY 2004, and 18 additional ships were successfully activated to support the mission. Once activated, the vessels maintained 99 percent operational reliability, surpassing expected performance. RRF ships and their crews have provided an unprecedented level of support to the Armed Forces since November 2002 for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom with more than 90 ship activations, logging over 12,300 days of service. RRF ships continued to support the more routine exercises and propositioning required by the Department of Defense during the same time period, with almost 5,000 days of service.
RRF ships under operational control of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) logged 5,106 operating days in FY 2005 supporting military missions and exercises. The overall performance or fully mission-capable rate for RRF ships while under MSC Operational Control, was 99.4 percent, surpassing its overall goal of 99 percent.
The RRF demonstrated additional security capabilities with the SafePort demonstration, on June 8, 2005, in San Francisco Harbor. The operational concept of SafePort is to safely access a "suspect container" and remove it from a post-Panamax containership at a safe anchorage location for homeland security. This exercise was conducted in-stream at anchor with the RRF ship Keystone State and the containership HorizonConsumer, after initial testing with the Matson Lines container vessel Lihue dockside. The Keystone State's cranes were operated by the ship's crew, and the exercise was deemed highly successful in implementing a unified Incident Command System with MARAD, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Energy, and other Federal and State agencies participating.
On July 27, 2005, the three-year procurement effort to obtain ship management services for the RRF program was completed. Twenty-one contracts were awarded to nine successful offerers for the management, maintenance and repair, activation, operation and deactivation of 54 RRF vessels. The total contract award value exceeded $2.3 billion over a 10 year performance period; the $2.3 billion figure includes options for extension for good performance. Innovation was the keynote of this procurement; it was the first performance-based services solicitation issued by MARAD and was the first major all-electronic solicitation in MARAD's history.