Summer sea term begins; Maritime students to aid Puerto Rico hurricane recovery

SST Departure

More than 400 SUNY Maritime College students and others this summer will spend three days assisting ongoing hurricane recovery efforts in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the college’s annual summer sea term onboard Training Ship Empire State VI. The ship left the college campus, bound for San Juan, on May 7.

The voyage to Puerto Rico is the first stop on the college’s annual summer sea term, which gives students the hands-on education and training they need to sail onboard commercial vessels after graduation. The ship will arrive in San Juan on May 20.

While on the island, the students 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.

The State University of New York is partnering with Gov. Cuomo’s New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative to support the ongoing recovery efforts in Puerto Rico this summer. The work aligns with the ongoing work of the SUNY Puerto Rico Task Force, which was established in October to support long- and short-term efforts to recover and rebuild a sustainable, resilient and vibrant Puerto Rico. Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime College, is the co-chair of the SUNY committee.

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 was in Florida and then Puerto Rico for more than a month.

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 San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Approximately two-thirds of Maritime College’s 1,800 students are concurrently pursuing degrees and U.S. Coast Guard licenses, which qualify an individual to work onboard a commercial vessel. The annual summer sea term is an integral part of the hands-on education and training required to earn a Coast Guard license, which is unaffiliated with military service. During summer sea term, students take classes, conduct safety drills, plot the ship’s course, operate the power plant, and perform maintenance.