Military deploys high-speed ferries to Haiti
The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command has dispatched the first of two high-speed ferries on Wednesday in support of ongoing relief efforts in earthquake-shattered Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The vessels Huakai and Alakai were originally built to serve as passenger and vehicle ferries in Hawaii but were turned over to the Maritime Administration's custody when the ferry service when bankrupt. The ships will be under operational control of the Military Sealift Command during Operation Unified Response.
The Military Sealift Command said the ships' main tasks would be to transfer equipment and personnel to Haiti. They are configured to each hold 450 tons of cargo and 500 passengers and can travel at a sustained speed of 33 knots.
On Wednesday, Huakai loaded a rapid port opening package, communications gear, forklifts, trucks, Humvees, supplies and other equipment at Fort Eustis, Va. In addition, the vessel will carry personnel from the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, the Military Sealift Command's Expeditionary Port Unit Detachment and elements from the Army's 7th Sustainment Brigade. Huakai will arrive in Haiti on Jan. 29.
Alakai is in Norfolk, Va., and is scheduled to get underway for Haiti in the next several days, the Military Sealift Command said.
Both high-speed ferries are part of a group of 12 ships under the Military Sealift Command's control, which have been mobilized in support of humanitarian efforts in Haiti.