US deploys 2 military hospital ships to help combat COVID-19

USNS Comfort anchored off Trinidad and Tobago. Credit: U.S. Navy/MC2 Nall Morgan

The US Government has deployed two military hospital ships, the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort, to the ports of Los Angeles and New York to provide additional hospital capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The two 1000 bed hospitals will provide relief to both state hospitals that are already reaching capacity. The vessels are crewed by civil service mariners who operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load the cargo, assist with the repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the ships running.

Both vessels have the capacity to treat up to 80 intensive care patients at any given time. They also have 12 fully fitted operating theatres to treat the most severe trauma cases. The deployment was issued by president Trump to provide relief hospital capabilities as both vessels will help treat non-COVID-19 patients on board, freeing up hospitals to focus on COVID-19 cases.

These mariners are represented by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) seafarers’ affiliates – the Seafarers International Union, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association and the Masters, Mates and Pilots.

“The United States maritime unions have a long history of providing aide and assistance in times of need, and this is no exception. We will continue to work with the government and industry to overcome this crisis,” said David Heindel, secretary-treasurer of the Seafarers International Union and ITF Seafarers Section chair.

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) helped provide and complete the required surveys for both vessels to be ready for deployment. ABS surveyors worked with Military Sealift Command to prioritise critical maintenance of the USNS Comfort and complete the availability.

“These are examples of our ABS team on the front lines and in action, directly helping to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19. During this difficult time our surveyors are out on vessels, carrying out their work in support of our clients and the industry,” said Christopher J. Wiernicki, ABS chairman, president and chief executive officer.

The USNS Comfort is expected to arrive in New York City on 30 March, while the USNS Mercy arrived in the port of Los Angeles on 27 March.