Cruise Ship Plan - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Cruise Ship Plan

Converting two cruise ships to military barracks could save the government millions of dollars in rent when troops are deployed overseas, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor says. The ships were part of a contract between Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard and American Classic Voyages to build cruise ships for the company's Hawaiian cruise line. Ingalls stopped work on the first ship after American Classic filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Work has not begun on the second ship.

``Obviously, we've got to find a use for those ships at Ingalls,'' Taylor said during a visit to Pascagoula last week. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has suggested that the U.S. Navy buy the ships. Navy Secretary Gordon England said recently that Navy officials were investigating the feasibility of the idea. Taylor believes there is a use for the ships. ``We spend tens of millions of dollars a year on rental properties around the world,'' said Taylor, R-Miss., a member of the House Armed Services Committee's Military Construction Subcommittee. ``We spend billions of dollars for housing for our troops overseas,'' he said. ``We've been involved militarily in places where we don't have barracks. ``When you have a contingency, it makes sense that rather than build temporary buildings you're going to leave behind, to float a ship in there and use it as a barracks.''

Taylor said the Department of Defense has chartered either cruise ships or quarters barges for military units on almost a continuous basis since 1990. ``I recall seeing a huge, ocean-going barge in Saudi Arabia, with at least five decks welded on it, and each of those decks was covered with house trailers, and those trailers were used to house military personnel during the Gulf War,'' he said. During a visit to Guantanamo Navy Base in Cuba when the base served as a refugee camp, he said, the Navy chartered cruise ships and other vessels for sailors because large numbers of refugees were housed in the barracks. ``I think it would make sense to take the two cruise ships, if American Classic Voyages does not come back, for the Navy to finish those vessels and use them as barracks ships,'' he said.

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