The Philippine Red Cross formally acquired a passenger ferry, the Susitna, on June 30, 2016.
The vessel enjoyed a brief service career plying the Anchorage-Point Mackenzie route in Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna borough, on June 30, 2016.
The 59-metre Susitna, which is easily identifiable by its small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) design, was sold to the Philippines for US$1.75 million.
The vessel was originally built in 2010 as a working prototype for a proposed US Navy expeditionary craft that could transition between a landing barge and a twin-hulled ship capable of high-speed cruise even in rough seas, an attribute made possible by the simple lowering and raising of her centre deck.
She is one of the first vessels ever designed with this “variable draught” feature, which contributes immensely to her versatility despite her rather modest carrying capacity of 129 passengers and 20 automobiles.
The Susitna completed sea trials in Washington’s Puget Sound on June 23 following the repair of her engines. There is no word yet on when she will sail for the Philippines.
The Philippine Red Cross plans to use the vessel for humanitarian and disaster relief operations, especially loading and unloading of aid equipment and personnel as well as casualty evacuation.
The Red Cross’ experience with Tropical Cyclone Haiyan in 2013 highlighted the need for a vessel that could conduct beach landings virtually anywhere along the country’s nearly 40,000-kilometre coastline.
With the acquisition of Susitna, the Red Cross will finally have a means of landing directly on unimproved coastal areas whenever strong winds and rough seas render existing ports and wharfs unusable.
Nelson E. Dela Cruz