If you arrive at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, by water--as I did for my first visit in May 2009--Mallory Pier is likely to be the first part of campus you see up close. At 825 feet long, and serving as the primary dock facility for a United States service academy, it should be an impressive sight.
And soon, it will be.
On Wednesday, a construction crew from Russell Marine took the first step toward repairing and modernizing the 50-year-old pier by driving the first pile into the seabed of the Long Island Sound. Like many in the USMMA community, I am very happy to see this important work get started.
When I first visited Kings Point nearly four years ago, it was clear to me that the pier was in no condition to support the Academy's mission to prepare shipboard officers and maritime leaders for a thriving merchant fleet and an effective national defense. I went to work immediately to secure funding to repair the pier and many of the Academy’s other structures, some of which had not been updated since they were built in 1942.
As a result, last September, we were able to execute an $11.5 million contract to get this critical facility back into a state of good repair so we can once again boast that the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy offers the finest maritime training facilities in the nation.
And last week, the first of the precast concrete piles that will provide improved support and long-term structural stability for Mallory Pier arrived in Hague Basin by barge. Seven more test piles will be driven in the seabed this week, and crews will measure their holding capacity. This will allow the remainder of the new piles to be sized properly for the actual conditions of the seabed.
I've said before that I am on a mission to ensure that Kings Point retains its position as one of the jewels among America's service academies. For an institution that prepares students for modern maritime duty, that means a modern waterfront the Academy can be proud of.
As Academy Superintendent RADM James Helis, Ph.D., said, “Our waterfront and its training activities are critical to our operations and the hands-on education of our midshipmen. Mallory Pier is a very important element of the capital improvement plan for creating a first class-infrastructure.”
When completed in 2014, the new Mallory Pier will be home to the Academy's newest training vessel, the Kings Pointer--formerly NASA's MV Liberty Star. The pier will also be home to the training vessel, Liberator, and will be able to accommodate U.S. Coast Guard vessels from Station Kings Point and visiting vessels as well.
A reliable U.S. Merchant Marine is vital to our economy and our security. The Academy that prepares our nation's mariners deserves a reliable pier.