The NSMV Lives!
A slightly delayed ‘MARAD-NSMV Industry Engagement’ event is now scheduled for 26-28 September at MITAGS in Linthicum, MD. The National Security Multimission Vessel (NSMV) is, so far, a conceptual design for the hoped-for replacement class of vessels for the nation’s aging maritime academy training ship fleet.
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) recently issued a bulletin announcing that a National Security Multimission Vessel (NSMV) Industry Engagement – an event where interested parties (potential offerors, end users, government acquisition and supporting personnel, and others involved in the conduct or outcome of the acquisition) – would be held to help identify and resolve concerns and improve the overall outcome of this planned acquisition.
But, what’s the status of this building plan? And, should builders and vendors spend time and energy chasing after it? Marad thinks so. In a prepared statement of this week, Marad told MarPro, "The FY2018 enacted budget includes $300 million in funding for the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel for construction of a schoolship. The FY2019 budget request includes $300 million to procure and convert two used ships to replace aging and outdated training ships."
Herbert Engineering (HEC) was contracted to prepare the NSMV design, and in 2015 a concept level design was prepared, with the Phase 3 design completed in early 2017. That package is expected to be sufficient for shipyards to prepare bids to build NSMV’s. The goal is to deliver new vessels to all five SMA’s. These hulls need to be useful assets for government response to humanitarian and disaster crises in coastal and port areas. This ability to merge two primary missions – training and disaster response – into one vessel is a critical design feature that must be incorporated into the new training ships.
Key design features include safety (compliant to SOLAS, USCG and ABS class rules), a capacity of 760 persons, and an operating draft of no more than 25 feet. This will allow access to less developed ports in support of future relief missions.
A hull lines optimization was effective in reducing required propulsion power by about 10% between the concept design and the optimized hull design. Two separate engine rooms were built into the design for reasons of redundancy in an emergency and to allow training to take place in one engine room while the second is used for propulsion.
The Proposed NSMV at a glance …
LOA: 159.85 m (524.5 ft.)
Propulsion engines: 4 x Diesel Generators
Total Power: 15,680 kW
Beam: 27 m (88.6 ft.)
Fuel Consumption: 26 tpd at 12 knots
Draft: 6.5 m (21.4 ft.)
Propellers: 1 propeller, fixed pitch
Thrusters: Bow & Stern
Service Speed: 18 knots
Crane: 1 x Jib Boom w/35 MT SWL
Endurance: ~ 11,000 nm
Cruising Speed: 12 knots
RoRo ramp: 20 ft. wide/40 ton capacity
RoRo deck: 10,700 sq. ft.
Propulsion: Diesel Electric
Capacity: 10 x 40 ft trailers with 26 autos
TEU Capacity: ~ 64 TEU
An NSMV Industry Engagement Event: what is it?
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) will host the second National Security Multi‐Mission Vessel (NSMV) Industry Engagement during the period of Wednesday, September 26, 2018 through Friday, September 28, 2018. This extended period of time will allow maximum flexibility for interested parties to discuss this procurement in detail. This NSMV Industry Engagement event is being held to discuss the Government’s plans for procuring the new NSMV, through a Vessel Construction Manager (VCM), and receive feedback on the DRAFT RFP and guidance design.
Following a broad overview of the planned acquisition, a detailed design review of the guidance documents will be provided to all attendees during the general information sessions. MARAD will also offer interested parties the opportunity to provide feedback on the DRAFT RFP and guidance design via individual sessions. For the purposes of the individual sessions, interested parties are considered as potential VCM’s and shipyards. Therefore, registration for an individual session with MARAD is limited to potential VCM’s and shipyards. Individual session time slots will be limited to 50 minutes and must be pre‐scheduled.
Why the NSMV? Why Now?
Anybody who has spent four years at a State Maritime Academy has also spent time at sea on a Marad-owned training vessel. Today, these platforms are long in the tooth, equipped with outdated equipment and not necessarily conducive to the task of training cadets for a future career at sea. For a long time, though, they’ve gotten the job done.
It is also true that some of these hulls are one equipment casualty away from the bone yard, despite that best efforts of the schools tasked with their upkeep. That’s got state maritime academy (SMA) officials worried. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s T/S Kennedy, for example, is 50 years old and it represents one of the best in this fleet of Marad assets.
The vessels are owned by Marad and as such, serve myriad other functions. Over time, they’ve been called up and activated during national emergencies – notably in the aftermath of hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and this year’s particularly robust hurricane season. Leveraging that reality, state maritime academy stakeholders made their most logical pitch ever: a built-for-purpose class of training ships. In a perfect world, they’re hoping for as many as five, which could come at a series-build price of $1 billion.
The training of cadets is the primary mission of these ‘on-loan’ training ships, but these aging assets serve an important corollary role in support of national disaster response or military need. This role was clearly displayed last year as three of the six ships were activated in support of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria and a fourth was notified of a possible activation in support of the California wild fires.
All Options on the Table
As the academies and Marad battle for the funds to build the NSMV, other options have emerged. One solution involves having more than one academy leverage one hull for training purposes. It has been done before, but in practice greatly accelerates the wear and tear on these aging vessels. This option merely moves the timeline forward as to when the real crisis will occur.
Still another option is being tossed around. Sales of second-hand ships reached a 10-year high in 2017 on optimism that one of the shipping industry's deepest recessions was nearing an end.’ More than 1,600 ships worth $19 billion were sold, the highest number since 2007. Fueled by growing confidence, shippers are taking advantage of low prices.
The right commercial hull of recent vintage, repurposed for Marad’s training needs, might just be the ticket. That’s because the average price of a five-year old 180,000 DWT bulker is now just $33 million, up from the $24 million low of 2016, but much less than the steep estimated price of $250 million for just one NSMV. But many stakeholders disagree. The most cost effective option – the NSMV – will support U.S. shipbuilding, provide domestic mariners with the necessary credentials to support U.S. military sealift, and at the same time, increase the nation’s ability to respond to national disasters.
Marad Chief Mark Buzby, late last year told me, “We can’t use the model that we’ve used in the past. We have to approach this in a much different way. Building the purpose-built ship would be the ultimate way to do it if we were really serious. But thus far, we have not done that. So the fall back – if we don’t build a purpose-built ship – is to go on the market, and it’s going to have to be a foreign-built, existing used ship because, because there aren’t any in the US inventory that could fulfill that. Buying a foreign ship and modifying it in a domestic yard – we’re doing that homework now. We have to look at it.”
There is also a lot to be said for a standardized training platform, especially if congress approves the series-build option. Both training and maintenance can be standardized across hulls, something that would create ultimately reduce costs and additionally allow the SMA’s to develop a standardized, logical curriculum that’s not necessarily possible today. A fit-for-purpose/series-built vessel comes at a higher upfront cost than a used hull, but yields a much lower ‘total ownership cost.’ That’s because standardized, off-the-shelf fittings across the fleet can be acquired more cheaply.
Due to the severe weather that impacted the U.S. East Coast, the NSMV Industry Engagement was rescheduled to Wednesday, September 26 - Friday, September 28, 2018. The location has changed to: MITAGS at 692 Maritime Boulevard, Linthicum Heights, MD 21090. Be there, or be square. – MLPro.
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Joseph Keefe is a 1980 (Deck) graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and lead commentator of MaritimeProfessional.com. Additionally, he is Editor of both Maritime Logistics Professional and MarineNews magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or