WITH an average of 22 to 26 typhoons visiting the country every year, and an annual average of 170 maritime accidents, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) found it important to acquire a ship to effectively perform its humanitarian mandate.
PRC Chairman Richard Gordon said the necessity for a ship was further driven home by the PRC’s experience when typhoon Yolanda battered Eastern Visayas, causing the closure of airports and seaports which made it difficult for the Red Cross to bring relief to the affected areas.
“At the onset of Yolanda, it took us four days to reach affected areas. Hence, the Philippine Red Cross and delegates from partner national societies and IFRC [International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent] agreed that we need our own ship to effectively perform our humanitarian work in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific Region,” he said.
The MV Susitna, a 195-foot military prototype vessel, was acquired by the PRC for $1.75 million, a fraction of what the Matanuska-Susitna Borough originally hoped to get for it.
The vessel was supposed to be turned into a ferry service between Point MacKenzie and Anchorage in Alaska. Matanuska-Susitna Borough had been trying to sell the vessel for about three years since plans to build a landing terminal outside of Anchorage fell through.
Gordon said the Susitna will be used to transport supply and as emergency units’ rapid transport and landing vessel. It can also be tapped as hospital ship or a sea rescue vessel, mass evacuation vessel, humanitarian logistics ship or mobile operations command post.
“Since it is designed for direct beach landings and to operate and land cargo and passengers on unimproved areas and damaged ports and wharfs, we won’t have to go through what we have experienced during Yolanda again,” he added.
During the PRC’s 31st Biennial Convention last week, the PRC entered into an agreement with the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific for the provision of crew and maintenance for the ship once it has been delivered to the PRC. The vessel needs six crew to run it.
Retired Vice Admiral Eduardo Ma. Santos, president of the maritime academy, was impressed with the PRC humanitarian project and said that they would take care of the ship’s maintenance for free, as well as provide the crew.
“The Red Cross will only have to provide for the crew’s allowance. It will be a sacrifice for our crew but since this is for the Red Cross, it will be worth it because it will ultimately be for the people and our country,” he said.
“Now, we have a ship and a very good institution to run it,” Gordon said, adding that final refurbishment is now being done to the MV Susitna prior to sailing for the Philippines for the official hand over.