Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High-Speed Ferry Ships to Support Haiti Relief

By Adrian Schulte, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

NORFLOK, Va. (NNS) -- High-speed ferry ships MV Huakai and MV Alakai are preparing to sail to Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response to provide disaster relief following the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Huakai and Alakai were originally built to serve as passenger and vehicle ferries in Hawaii but were turned over to the Maritime Administration's custody when the ferry service went bankrupt.

The ships will be under operational control of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) during Operation Unified Response.

The ships' main tasks will be to transfer equipment and personnel in the region. They are configured for the mission to each hold 450 tons of cargo and 500 passengers and can travel at a sustained speed of 33 knots.

Huakai loaded a rapid port opening package, communications gear, fork lifts, trucks, Humvees, supplies and other equipment at Fort Eustis, Va., Jan. 27. Huakai will also carry personnel from the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, MSC's Expeditionary Port Unit Detachment and elements from the Army's 7th Sustainment Brigade. Huakai got underway Jan. 27 and is scheduled to arrive in Haiti Jan. 29.

Alakai is currently in Norfolk, Va., and is scheduled to get underway for Haiti in the next several days.

Huakai and Alakai are two of 12 ships under MSC control mobilized to date in support of humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. These ships include hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198), rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson (T-AGS 63), maritime prepositioning ships USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011) and USNS Pfc. Dewayne T. Williams (T-AK-3009) and dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2). In addition, three ships have been activated from the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force to assist with the effort. When activated, these ships will fall under operational control of MSC.

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.