March 01, 2006

Saving the Salvation Navy

Ward Brewer is tired. Exhausted. Pissed.

It took years of effort to get this far, and as it comes down to the wire, everything he's worked so hard for depends on what happens in the first tense days of March.

The former emergency responder is the CEO of Beauchamp Tower Corporation, a non-profit organization with a bold and brilliant idea: convert obsolete, scrapyard-bound military vessels into a fleet of state-of-the-art disaster response ships that can be on-site after a major natural disaster like last year's Hurricane Katrina in a matter of hours instead of days. Many of the challenges Beauchamp Tower Corporation have been document Operation Enduring Service on the OES Project Weblog.

Retired Navy veterans such as Mars-class combat stores ships and other obsolete but still-capable cargo ships will be refitted to provide complex emergency communications support that can replace cell phone and radio towers lost in a hurricane, so that on-shore first responders can answer rescue calls even if the local phone and radio systems are destroyed.

These same ships, crewed by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and supported by disaster-aid groups, can bring in hundreds of emergency-response personnel to a disaster zone and provide them housing so that lodging on-shore can be dedicated to the victims of the storm, while bringing thousands of tons of supplies. Each ship will also be capable of distilling, bottling, and shipping thousands of gallons of water and over 100 tons of ice to shore each day.

This humanitarian fleet—this Salvation Navy—will have far more disaster-response capability than anything currently in use by either FEMA or the military, and—here's the kicker—it actually saves taxpayers the tens of millions of dollars it would have taken to turn these ships into scrap.

Generous corporate sponsors will underwrite the conversion and modernization of the rescue fleet.

So why is Ward Brewer so upset? Politics.

For want of a "germaine" bill between now and the end of March to which they can attach a rider giving these obsolete ships to his non-profit Beauchamp Tower Corporation, the entire program could be sent to the bottom.

The U.S. Navy has been holding these ships, but if legislation does not come through soon, other interests and indeed other countries will be allowed to potentially scrap or salvage these ships, ships that could be saving American lives in coming hurricane seasons. We gripe about foreign nations controlling our ports, even as we give away our ships. This must not stand.

Ladies and Gentlemen, kickstart your Congress.

Save this Salvation Navy.

Update: The OES Project Web Log has a new post up today that explains the concepts and technologies involved in far more detail.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at March 1, 2006 10:00 AM | TrackBack

This is way too cool.

Posted by: Specter at March 1, 2006 12:29 PM

Damn, I wanted to rail against anything I read here today, but this makes too much sense.

Expensive, maybe, but it could not be more wasteful than what we have. Staging and engaging the fleet when there's a storm(s) blowing could be problematic. But, this could be a very beneficial element in aiding the coastal regions in any type of disaster.

I hope it gets off the ground...I mean, floats.

Posted by: Sr. Bojangles at March 1, 2006 02:13 PM

That was cowardly of you to shut down the comment thread on your post yesterday. You used one borderline offensive comment to justify censoring the views of everyone who might have had something to say about your topic. That was not cool, not cool at all. If you're going to publish your stuff on the WaPo website, shouldn't you be big enough to hear what WaPo readers have to say about your postings?

Posted by: ahab at March 1, 2006 02:17 PM

However, I still can't figure out how this...this thing is linked to the front page of the Washington Post. You should see the look on my face right now. Sort of a confused disgust, like I saw a puppy struggling in a wild animal trap, no, no wait... that's not it. It's more of a foul thing stuck to the shoe and I've nowhere to scrape it just now.

I'll leave you alone now.

Posted by: Sr. Bojangles at March 1, 2006 02:20 PM

ahab, it was not one borderline commment, but series of comments that were either off-topic, or abusive to various people commenting. I deleted some comments outright, banned several of the worst offenders, and in the end locked the thread.

I encourage Washington Post readers to leave thoughtful, engaging comments about the topic at hand, but I have no obligation, moral or otherwise, to put up with those would be rude or abusive to myself or others.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 1, 2006 02:34 PM


Seriously - you could start your own blog if you don't like what CY does. After all - it is his.

Posted by: Specter at March 1, 2006 04:35 PM

Just wondering how the public support of war ships to protect civilians at the cost of millions or billions of tax dollars is anything but liberalism? I mean it seems like a good idea, assuming that the logistics actually prove to be superior to an improved integrated inter-agency system, like FEMA was before a Bush crony was put in charge, then I'm all for it. I'm just saying that it's like free disaster insurance, no?

Posted by: calboxer at March 1, 2006 04:43 PM

The project isn't funded by tax dollars, it's funded by donations from individuals and corporations and the salvaging of ships that would otherwise be shipped overseas and scraped.

It's a free standing organization that won't have to deal with the red tape that we all witnessed during this past hurricane season.

It not only saves tax dollars by removing the dependency upon FEMA and other Governmental Organizations for relief, it creates jobs in the areas that were hardest hit by Katrina.

Posted by: phin at March 1, 2006 05:36 PM

For those who have not been to the O.E.S. websight, let me fill you in on some things. First, the ship would have been almost ready at the start of the hurricane season. When a storm threatens the US, Gulf or Atlantic, the ship will go into a standby condition. Workers will be recalled as the storm strenghtens. When the ship is ready to steam, she will pull out and go south of the storm and fall behind the hurrican, giving hourly updates on strength and speed. She will tag along at a safe distance until land fall. About 10 hours after land fall, the ship will be getting needed supplies( ice,water, food, fuel and communications) to the First Responders at the land fall area. We sure needed something like that when we were hit by Rita this past year.
The ship will give everything she has to get the affected area up and running in short time. This is just the tip of the iceburg for this project. Go and read and you judge for yourself if this would work. I have been invovled for about 3 years and is just as upset as O.E.S. on the failure of the Washington politics and MARAD. If it was your home town affected, you would jump and down and scream till something is done. Get ready, because it will be coming and if you don't get on board, you will be left out.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2006 06:55 PM