SCI Team Visits Philly Shipyard and Training Ship Construction

Photo: Mark Nestlehutt, TOTE’s Sara Rivas, Phil Schifflin, and Stephen Polk during a recent visit to the Philly Shipyard.

The Philly Shipyard stands out as one of North America’s most active shipyards, constructing four significant U.S. Jones Act vessels. Before last month’s journey to SCI’s 2023 Mountain Challenge event, a tour of the shipyard was arranged for Captain Stephen Polk (Director of SCI’s Center for Maritime Education–Houston), Phil Schifflin (Capt., USCG (ret.) & Director of SCI’s Center for Mariner Advocacy–New Orleans), and Mark Nestlehutt (SCI’s President & Executive Director–New York). Their visit provided a firsthand look at the new, purpose-built MARAD ships for the nation’s maritime academies and a new commercial offshore wind vessel.

TOTE, SCI’s corporate sponsor, was awarded the contract to oversee the construction of these vessels. With the assistance of Jeff Dixon, President of TOTE Services, the SCI team was warmly received by Sara Rivas, National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV) Deputy Program Manager for TOTE. The tour extended over three hours, commencing with a look at the steel plates for NSMV4, Texas A&M Maritime’s future Lone Star State. That was followed by a visit to the dry dock where NSMV3 Maine Maritime’s State of Maine was taking shape. The team concluded their tour aboard NSMV2, the Patriot State, which was afloat and in the process of being outfitted, with an expected delivery to Mass Maritime in mid-2024. NSMV1, the Empire State, was previously delivered to SUNY Maritime earlier this year. Sara Rivas, a United States Merchant Marine Academy graduate, led the tour and provided a comprehensive overview of the shipyard and the NSMV program. Her deep pride in being part of these projects, along with that of TOTE, was clearly evident.

Following the construction of the Lone Star State, Philly Shipyard’s next project is a highly anticipated Subsea Rock Installation (SRI) vessel for the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, aimed at supporting the offshore wind installation industry. Subsequently, the shipyard will focus on NSMV5, Cal Maritime’s Golden State. 

These vessels represent the first purpose-built ships for America’s maritime academy fleet, designed to train future mariners and support humanitarian relief efforts in areas affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes. In 2021, at the invitation of SUNY Maritime’s President, RADM Michael Alfultis, SCI chaplains began staffing SUNY Maritime’s Summer Sea Term cruises, a role they continued in 2022 and 2023, most recently aboard Cal Maritime’s training ship, the Golden Bear. At the annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner in 2022, SCI paid tribute to all seven of America’s maritime colleges for the work they do in ensuring a well-trained and highly educated class of seafarers to crew our nation’s vessels.