Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– From wars to disasters, the Navy hospital ship Comfort always found its way to Baltimore. But not for much longer.
Alex DeMetrick reports the Navy is moving the Comfort out of Baltimore permanently.
Comfort has made Baltimore its home port for the past quarter century. But this will be its last year here.
“I’m sad. I’m unhappy. I cried last night,” former U.S. Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley said.
Bentley played a big part in getting the Comfort to Baltimore.
“We love it. We’ve treated it nice. Everybody likes it, loves it and we hope we can still keep it,” she said.
But Bentley knows it’s not likely to happen. The Navy says moving it to Norfolk will save $2 million a year, even though it just spent $5 million three years ago to upgrade the Baltimore dock.
“I guess they’re abandoning that investment,” she said.
During its time in Baltimore, the Comfort was deployed to the Persian Gulf for the first Gulf War. Staffed by hundreds of Navy medical personnel, its primary mission was caring for U.S. troops.
In more recent years, those crews were sent to disaster zones like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.
Starting next year, those medical crews will be sent to Norfolk to board ship and about 40 civilian jobs will move with them.
“Jobs that we hate to lose, but next week, we’ll bring an announcement about a new container line that will bring 400 jobs,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said.
A reality that will likely dash Bentley’s plea: “I hope the governor can do something.”
But it’s the Navy’s call, and the Comfort is going.
The Navy plans to move the Comfort in March of 2013.