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June 2, 2022

Maine Maritime Academy's new training ship bears Castine name, but almost didn't

Courtesy / U.S. Sen. Susan Collins The new training ship for Maine Maritime Academy, State of Maine, will bear Castine as its home port. Pictured is the academy's existing training vessel, also State of Maine.

The stern of Maine Maritime Academy’s new training ship displays "Castine, Maine, U.S.A." as home port, despite a decision that would have listed one 800 miles away.

The U.S. Maritime Administration had initially said that a fleet of new training vessels for state maritime academies would all hail from Norfolk, Va. The federal agency is spending $1.5 billion for five of the National Security Multi-Mission Vessels, which replace ships that are aging and becoming obsolete.

Courtesy / Maritime Administration
Congress approved money to construct a National Security Multi-Mission Vessel for Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

In Castine, the training ship State of Maine will be used to provide maritime training for students who may ultimately serve in the Navy, the Coast Guard or the merchant marine field.

The academy's current training vessel is also known as the State of Maine. It was built as a Navy ship by Bethlehem Steel Corp. at Sparrows Point, Md., and launched in 1990. After a conversion, it was delivered to the Maine Maritime Academy in 1997. 

In 2019, $300 million was appropriated for construction of a new training vessel. 

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, helped persuade MARAD to change course on the port designation.

“MMA’s training vessels have always borne the home port of Castine, Maine, on their sterns, carrying Maine’s rich maritime heritage to ports around the world. MARAD’s initial plan to designate the State of Maine’s home port in Virginia not only defied logic, but it was also a disservice to MMA’s exceptional instruction of generations of sailors in our state,” Collins said.

“MARAD’s decision to change tack and adhere to its historical precedent is a victory for common sense and home state pride.”

Jerry Paul, the academy's president, said, “Maine Maritime Academy extends its sincerest gratitude to Senator Collins for her leadership on this matter which has ensured the continuation of the pride that we have had for 80 years here in Castine as our home port."

The stern of MMA’s current training vessel designates its home port as “Castine, Maine.” Earlier this year, however, the academy informed Collins that MARAD was planning to designate the home port for the new State of Maine as Norfolk, Va. The change had already affected the new training ship for the State University of New York Maritime College.

At an appropriations hearing in April, Collins raised the issue to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Collins also sent a letter to Buttigieg that was signed by her colleagues from Texas, California, New York, and Massachusetts, which are all home to maritime academies that would have been affected by the home port designation.

MARAD is now revising its policy to ensure the training vessels display the locations of their respective colleges.

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