As this month’s magazine went to press, a press release came across the interweb announcing a contract between west coast shipping line Matson Navigation and San Diego Shipyard NASSCO for two new combination container and roll-on/roll-off (con/ro) vessels for Matson’s Hawaii fleet at a contract price of $511 million for both vessels, with deliveries scheduled for the end of 2019 and mid-year 2020.
The new vessels will be built on a 3,500 TEU vessel platform with enclosed garage space for up to 800 vehicles. The new ships will feature “green technology,” including a fuel-efficient hull design, environmentally safe double hull fuel tanks, fresh water ballast systems and dual-fuel engines, able to operate at speeds up to 23 knots on either conventional fuel oils or liquefied natural gas.
These new Jones-Act vessels will employ American Shipyard workers in San Diego, longshoremen on the mainland and in Hawaii, and US sailors, trained, perhaps at Seattle Maritime Academy, whose courses and newly-expanded facility are profiled in this issue.
These modern, safe new vessels will be a far cry from many of the ships flying flags of convenience, also featured in these pages. For example, crewmembers of the Antigua Barbuda-flagged container ship M/V Delphinus, foreign sailors who have been stranded with their ship about a mile off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida since April, when the ship was seized by the US Marshals Service to satisfy creditors’ claims.
Seafarers’ House Chaplain Ron Perkins has visited the ship on several occasions and has been working to assist the crew in any way possible. Meanwhile, the crew is stuck aboard the ship until a new owner buys the vessel at auction, or it is sold for scrap, at which time proceeds from the sale will be used to send the crew back to their home countries of Ukraine, Poland and the Philippines.
While the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is best known as the cabotage law that regulates commerce in US waters, it also protects US jobs and US workers in one of the world’s most vital industries. American sailors benefit from the protections afforded them by the Jones Act, the Constitution and the unions to which they belong, including the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, who may be chosen to crew these new, efficient and environmentally sound Matson vessels.