On Dec. 20, the final appropriations agreement was signed into law, which provides $300 million for the construction and acquisition of a new training vessel for Maine Maritime Academy.
This funding for MMA was included following months of negotiation and advocacy from U.S. Senator Susan Collins, chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. Collins also was chairman of the negotiating committee that brokered the agreement between the House and the Senate for the Transportation and Housing appropriations bill.
“This ship is a critical training asset for Maine Maritime Academy, which is why I fought to include this funding throughout the Appropriations process,” Collins said. “Maine Maritime Academy provides an exceptional education that fully prepares students to excel in the Navy, Coast Guard, and the maritime industry. This new ship will help provide rigorous instruction and crucial maritime training for MMA students for decades to come.”
Dr. William J. Brennan, president of Maine Maritime Academy said he is grateful for support of the new vessel funding.
“This appropriation demonstrates that Congress believes in the value of our state maritime academies and our role in support of economic and national security. I am especially pleased with the level of support we have received from Senator Susan Collins who, as chair of the Senate’s Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, has had the laboring oar in approving funding for this huge accomplishment,” he said.
Collins strongly opposed a proposal earlier this year that requested $205 million to construct a smaller training vessel for MMA. It would have been inferior to a ship funded in fiscal year (FY) 2019 for Massachusetts Maritime Academy despite the fact that Maine Maritime Academy has nearly the same number of Coast Guard-licensed graduates and the same need for at-sea training. In addition, changing the design would have required the U.S. Maritime Administration to start from scratch in designing a brand new ship. At a Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee hearing she chaired in March, Collins obtained the commitment of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to secure additional funding.
“It was my goal from the beginning to ensure that Maine Maritime Academy received the exact same kind of ship as Massachusetts Maritime Academy,” Collins continued. “MMA students and instructors are exceptional, and they deserve full and equal resources to continue to do their jobs effectively.”
The $300 million for the new training ship at MMA was included in the FY 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill authored by Collins. In addition, the bill provides $5 million in direct support and tuition assistance for the Maine Maritime Academy, as well as fuel payments for their current training ship, the State of Maine.
In 1997, Collins served as the sponsor of the training ship State of Maine when it was acquired by Maine Maritime Academy. Approximately 1,000 undergraduates are enrolled at the institution.