Pres. Trump and Puerto Rico


From: BT-1 John Possin
U.S.N., retired

It makes me angry when people complain about President Trump not doing enough for the people of Puerto Rico. Don’t they realize the United States has no merchant marine anymore?

The distance by sea from New York to Puerto Rico is 1,448 nautical miles. The average freighter’s top speed is approximately 10 knots — 11.5 mph. That means six days steaming at top speed.

From Charleston, S.C., to San Juan is a distance of 1,582 nautical miles of hand steaming to arrive in six-and-a-half days. From Key West, Fla., to Puerto Rico is a distance of 1,238 nautical miles of hand steaming to arrive in five days.

Once the ship arrives, what are the store facilities like? If the piers are damaged the cargo must be transferred to small boats and ferries ashore.

Ramsay Air Force Base was closed in 1971. Does the airfield still exist, and what shape is it in for cargo planes? Roosevelt Roads Naval Station was closed in 2004. The piers have not been maintained for 14 years. What shape are they in?

The Puerto Rican government has owned the Government Development Bank, Puerto Rico Electric Authority, and Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority since 1941. During all the years since 1941, building codes and the utilities should have kept up with modern standards. Their own government should be held responsible.

Mr. Trump sent the Navy Hospital Ship to Puerto Rico and got Congress to approve $9 billion in aide to Puerto Rico. Note that this number does not include aide from the American Red Cross and all Christian denominations in America.

In return, we need to know what the Puerto Ricans are doing for themselves. Are they organizing working parties to clean the roads so supply trucks can get through? Are they cleaning the civilian airfields for cargo planes? We don’t know.

What I do know from past experience is that a Forest Sherman Class Destroyer tied up alongside the pier on in-port auxiliary steaming can provide enough electrical shore power for a small town and 360 sailors. The crew members not assigned to the boiler rooms and engine rooms were assigned to shore working parties. She has a galley large enough to serve 360 meals three times a day. She has a laundry, showers, toilets, an infirmary and a barbershop. Her distilling plant can provide enough fresh water for all these services. If the crew goes on water hours, we can provide extra fresh water to the shore facility.

Instead of scrapping old ships from the mothball fleet, they could be stationed in areas to provide emergency electrical power, distilled water and other services. They could be manned by reservists or used as vocational training in the engine rooms and generator rooms.

The skills learned aboard would enable young people to get good jobs in the utilities industry.


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