Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Our loss, the Navy’s gain. There’s new information on why the Navy is moving the hospital ship USNS Comfort from Baltimore to Norfolk, Va.
Alex DeMetrick reports like real estate, it’s all about location at the best price.
The Navy may own the Comfort, but it takes a lot of civilians to keep it in top shape. Local contractors have been doing it for awhile.
“Since 1989, when the ship first came to Baltimore,” explained Steve Cieslak of Harris Fire Protection. “It’s good for the economy because there’s a lot of local companies that provide goods and services to the ship.”
That business could take a hit when the Navy moves the Comfort from Baltimore to Norfolk in 2013. But it will save the Navy $2 million a year.
“After 25 years of being in Baltimore, it will be a sad day that the ship moves, but I can see the advantages to being in the Norfolk area,” Capt. Randall Rockwood, Comfort’s master, said.
Rockwood commands the civilian crew that operates the ship.
The Navy provides the hundreds of doctors, nurses and medical staff during missions, whether it’s war or disaster relief like the earthquake in Haiti. And being in Norfolk saves time.
“As fast as the ship left the dock, it still had to transit 12 hours down the Bay before it could turn right to go down to Haiti,” Rockwood said. “We’ll be closer to the Atlantic, which is important.”
That will also put it closer to the supplies the ship needs and to the medical crew. Those bussed into Baltimore from Bethesda are are only a small fraction of the staff.
“The bulk of our medical staff actually comes from Portsmouth Naval Hospital, which is in Virginia, probably about 20 miles from where the ship will be stationed,” Capt. David Weiss of the U.S. Navy said.
Right now, that trip to Virginia is set for March of next year.
Even though it leaves for good next year, the Comfort will soon be sailing for Boston for 60 days of dry dock work.