Cadets from SUNY Maritime are joining relief efforts for Puerto Rico.
The TS Empire State VI launched from Fort Schuyler with nearly 550 cadets on board for their summer sea term in the late morning on Monday, May 7.
The term begins in San Juan, where cadets will assist with three projects: restoring trade-based agriculture, including assisting farmers plant pineapple, mango and coconut; preparing roofs for construction by removing tarps and other temporary materials; and removing debris.
In San Juan, the ship will provide housing for 30 students from University at Albany and about a dozen from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, who will also work on the recovery projects.
For cadet Juan Diego Nazario, this means returning home for a few days.
“I’m from the west part of the island which wasn’t hit as hard as the north but we still struggled,” said Nazario. “I go home whenever I get the chance, I’ve seen how the island is being rebuilt, it feels really great to go back and help out in any way I can,” he added.
This is the second time Empire State VI has been to Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery.
The ship, which belongs to the federal government, was deployed to Puerto Rico in the fall to house disaster-relief workers.
It spent more than a month in both Puerto Rico and Florida.
In passed years the 565-foot, 17,000 ton vessel was also deployed for relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina and even became used as lodging for FEMA workers during Hurricane Sandy.
“I see the trip going down to help in Puerto Rico as an extension of this idea of helping students develop as people, they’re going to actually serve and help people still recovering, it helps with their personal development as well as professional growth,” said Rear Admiral and Maritime president Michael Alfultis.
“You see this tremendous growth in the students over the summer sea term because they’re given so much responsibility and trust and students truly rise up to that,” he added.
Over the course of the 90-day summer sea term, SUNY Maritime students will visit Palma, Mallorca; Glasgow, Scotland; Gaeta, Italy and Funchal, Madeira, in addition to Puerto Rico.
Their annual summer sea term is part of the hands-on education and training required to earn a Coast Guard license, which is unaffiliated with any military service.
Earning a Coast Guard license requires taking courses, earning hundreds of days of sea time, passing a series of exams, and living a regimented lifestyle.
During summer sea term, students take classes, conduct safety drills, plot the ship’s course, operate the power plant, and perform maintenance as a major comportment of earning a Coast Guard license.
It will be one of the final Maritime journeys for the Empire State VI.
After serving the school since the late 1980s, a brand new training ship is expected within four years, the academy is hopeful.