12 | 16
Oct: 17 |
September 12, 2005
As Master (captain) of the 524’ United States Government
ship Sirius -Texas A&M Training Ship, I have been asked
to write daily reports about the Katrina Relief Operations currently
in progress. We expect to arrive in New Orleans approximately
In order to understand the operation fully, I will back up
to Saturday 9/3/05. On Saturday morning, I was at my house relaxing
when a phone call came in with the caller ID showing “US
Government.” My wife handed me the phone and she knew
the call meant the ship was going to be activated. After the
call from United States Maritime Administration (owner of the
ship) confirming the ship was being activated, numerous phone
calls were made between me, Texas A&M University at Galveston,
and Ocean Shipholdings, Inc. (operator of the ship for Katrina
Relief). Saturday afternoon, the first meeting was held with
Ocean Shipholdings, Inc. to start the activation of the Sirius.
By Monday (Labor Day), the activation was in full progress.
Contractors were working to make conversions to the ship for
the relief effort. Crew from Seafarers International Union (SIU)
and officers from the American Maritime Officers Union (AMO)
started arriving early Monday morning to crew the ship, along
with the permanent crew from Texas A&M. Before the crew
had a chance to place their sea bags in their cabins, they were
put to work preparing the ship to be activated by Friday.
The Maritime Cadets from Texas A&M at Galveston, came aboard
the ship in their free time to help activate the ship. Doing
jobs the chief mate or chief engineer assigned for them to do,
including standing gangway watch at night, soundings, and lights.
They did a great job!
During this time alongside, stores (food) were loaded for 250
people for sixty days; the helicopter hanger was converted into
berthing for 50 people by installing air conditioning and placing
50 cots in the hanger. The stewards department during this time
stayed very busy cleaning the 140 cabins aboard ship and readying
the cabins for guests and also getting the galley operational
to serve hot meals.
By Friday morning the ship was ready to sail, however sailing
was delayed until 0700 Saturday morning in order for the ship
to load four containers of water donated by Stolt Nielson Offshore,
for a total of approximately 120 tons of water in addition to
the water already aboard, approximately 700 tons for a total
of 219,760 gallons of water.
Saturday morning at 0700, the accommodation ladder was brought
aboard and tugs eased the ship off the dock, and we proceeded
to anchorage in order to take bunkers (fuel).
At anchor approximately 238,000 gallons of diesel fuel was transferred
to the ship by barge, more stores came out on a launch and two
31’ high speed patrol boats were loaded aboard the ship.
At 2000, we heaved anchor and soon were heading to New Orleans.
We had to wait until Monday morning to pick up the pilot for
the Mississippi River because ships can only transit the river
in daylight due to aids of navigation (buoys) not being in their
Upon arrival in New Orleans, our mission will be to provide
housing and support to the New Orleans firefighters and police.
The ship will become a place were the firefighters and police
can sleep, take a shower and be fed a hot meal, something most
of us take for granted on a daily basis. The ship’s steward
department will be serving food 24/7 in two dining areas.
The 41 crewmembers from S.I.U., A.M.O., and Texas A&M have
been outstanding, I have never sailed with such a hard working
crew who has been so mission focused. Work started on the ship
Monday and by Friday morning the ship was ready to sail. In
five days, two months of work was accomplished.
When I hear the US Government has not responded sufficiently,
I disagree, the government employees I work with have worked
around the clock to make sure this ship sailed on time. America
has pulled together for its fellow citizens in distress and
it makes me proud to be an American!
Captain Sam Stephenson