When you look around the Portland waterfront, you might notice something missing that most major cities around the United States have. That is, a major surface ship from the US Navy to serve as a museum. For the past nine years, the USS Ranger Foundation has been trying to change that by bringing the Forrestal Class Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger to town. An aspect that is now being promoted is the potential use of such a ship as an emergency shelter and communications center.
The USS Ranger served from 1957 to 1993, including in Desert Storm. In the event of a major flood or earthquake, a ship on the river would largely be unaffected. The large deck space could be used for centralized helicopter operations, 60 hospital rooms could be put to operation, generators could provide power to local hospitals, it could comfortably hold 5,000 individuals and has the emergency shelter potential to hold an additional 10,000 in it’s hanger bays. This is not a unique proposal- the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame is trying to bring the similar-sized USS John F. Kennedy to their state with the similar disaster relief aspect in mind.
One of the major points for having an Aircraft Carrier available is from the experience in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The USS Harry S. Truman was dispatched but did not arrive til a week after. Meanwhile, the much smaller Amphibious Assault Ship USS Bataan arrived the day after the storm and served as a command center for the large number of helicopter rescues around the city. It was able to transport over 1,600 individuals, 100,000 pounds of supplies, and dispatch two medical teams to the field. More recently, the quick dispatch of the USS Carl Vinson provided command, control, and relief after the January earthquake in Haiti.
There are still major issues preventing the USS Ranger from coming to Portland. It would likely cost over $30 million to bring it here, not including the still-unresolved issue of getting it through all the bridges. I do have to admit that it is an interesting idea, particularly given the potential for a big earthquake in the region.
Image 1: USS Ranger Foundation
Image 2: USS Carl Vinson in Haiti, US Navy