NOAAS McArthur (S 330)

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NOAAS McArthur (S 330).jpg
NOAAS McArthur (S 330) sometime between 1970 and 2003
Flag of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.svgU.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey
Name: USC&GS McArthur (CSS 30)
Namesake: William Pope McArthur (1814-1850), a United States Coast Survey officer who pioneered hydrographic survey work on the United States West Coast
Builder: Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Norfolk, Virginia
Laid down: 15 July 1965
Launched: 15 November 1965
Sponsored by: Mrs. Jack K. Bennett
Commissioned: 15 December 1966
Fate: Transferred to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 3 October 1970
Name: NOAAS McArthur (S 330)
Namesake: Previous name retained
Acquired: Transferred from U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey 3 October 1970
Decommissioned: 20 May 2003
Homeport: Seattle, Washington
Nickname(s): "Mini-Mac" (after commissioning of the larger NOAAS McArthur II (R 330), known as "Big Mac," in May 2003)[1]
Fate: Sold to Blackwater Worldwide 2006
Name: M/V McArthur
Namesake: Previous name retained
Owner: Academi
Operator: Academi
Port of registry: United States United States
Acquired: 2006
In service: September 2007
Homeport: Norfolk, Virginia
Identification:IMO number6602082
Status: Active
General characteristics
(survey ship)
Class and type: McArthur-class hydrographic survey ship S1-MT-70a
Tonnage: 854 gross register tons; 207 net register tons
Displacement: 995 tons (full load)
Length: 175 ft (53 m)
Beam: 38 ft (12 m)
Draft: 12.1 ft (3.7 m)
Installed power: 1,600 horsepower (2.1 megawatts)
Propulsion: Two General Motors diesel engines, twin controllable-pitch propellers, 186 tons fuel
Speed: 12 knots
Range: 6,000 nautical miles at 12 knots
Endurance: 17 days
Complement: Either 23 (6 officers and 17 crew) plus up to 13 scientists[2] or 38 (8 NOAA Corps officers, 3 licensed engineers, and 27 other crew), plus up to 2 scientists[3]
Notes: 440 kilowatts electrical power; Hydroplot PDP 11/34 computer
General characteristics
(maritime security ship)
Class and type: none
Type: Private maritime security ship and training ship
Tonnage: 854 gross register tons; 207 net register tons
Displacement: 995 tons (full load)
Length: 175 ft (53 m)
Beam: 38 ft (12 m)
Draft: 12.1 ft (3.7 m)
Installed power: 1,600 horsepower (2.1 megawatts)
Propulsion: Two General Motors diesel engines, twin controllable-pitch propellers, 186 tons fuel
Speed: 12 knots
Range: 6,000 nautical miles at 12 knots
Endurance: 17 days
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Three rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs)
Complement: 45 (includes 35 private security personnel)
Aircraft carried: Two MH-6 Little Bird helicopters

NOAAS McArthur (S 330), was an American survey ship in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 1970 to 2003. Prior to her NOAA career she was in commission in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1966 to 1970 as USC&GS McArthur (CSS-30).

In 2007, the ship went into private service with Blackwater Worldwide (later known as Blackwater USA, Xe Services LLC, and Academi) as the maritime security and training ship M/V McArthur

Construction and commissioning[edit]

Constructed as a "coastal survey ship" (CSS) for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, McArthur was laid down on 15 July 1965 by the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Company at Norfolk, Virginia, and launched on 15 November 1965,[4] sponsored by Mrs. Jack K. Bennett.[4] The Coast and Geodetic Survey commissioned her on 15 December 1966 as USC&GS McArthur (CSS 30). When the Coast and Geodetic Survey merged with other United States Government agencies to form NOAA on 3 October 1970, McArthur became part of the NOAA fleet as NOAAS McArthur (S 330).

McArthur had one sister ship, NOAAS Davidson (S 331).

Service history as USC&GS and NOAAS McArthur[edit]

With her home port at Seattle, Washington, McArthur spent her career operating along the United States West Coast, in Alaskan waters, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. She began her career operating as a hydrographic survey ship, but later became primary U.S. West Coast current survey vessel. She engaged in measurements of chemical, meteorological, and biological sampling for several large-scale programs within NOAA. Her work was focused primarily on the exclusive economic zone of the United States off the U.S. West Coast, especially in several of the National Marine Sanctuaries there. She also conducted Chase Encirclement Stress Studies (CHESS) -- marine mammal surveys throughout the eastern tropical Pacific—and took part in the Oregon, California, Washington (ORCAWALE) Project in support of protected species research efforts; she also participated in the Sustainable Seas Expedition. The scientists who carried out research aboard McArthur came from many divisions of NOAA, as well as other United States Government agencies, U.S. state government agencies, and academia.

On 26 October 1969, McArthur was docked in Ketchikan, Alaska, when a gunman shot a member of her crew, wiper John Fleagle, in the back on the pier. Fleagle managed to get aboard the ship and entered the stateroom of ESSA Corps Lieutenant, junior grade, Robert C. Husted, Jr., at approximately 06:00 hours. Husted attended to Fleagle's immediate medical needs and, after determining that the gunman was aboard McArthur and holding the ship's captain and quartermaster at gunpoint, left the ship at considerable risk to his life to run barefoot to the United States Coast Guard base about one-half mile (0.8 km) away to summon an ambulance and police. For his actions, Hustedt received the Department of Commerce Silver Medal in 1970.[5]

In 1989, the McArthur became the first NOAA ship to be commanded by a woman, Evelyn Fields. Fields thus also became the first woman to command a ship for an extended assignment in any United States uniformed service.[6]

McArthur was decommissioned on 20 May 2003 at the NOAA Marine Operations Center at Seattle and replaced in the NOAA fleet by the oceanographic research ship NOAAS McArthur II (R 330), which was commissioned the same day in a combined ceremony.

M/V McArthur[edit]

MV McArthur in 2010

In 2006, McArthur was sold to Blackwater Worldwide, which converted her for use as a training ship and private maritime security ship,[7][8][9][10] fitting her to carry two MH-6 Little Bird helicopters, three rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs), and a crew of 45 that includes 35 private security personnel.[11] She entered service with the company in September 2007 as M/V McArthur, home-ported at Norfolk, Virginia, and repainted with a blue hull and white upper works.

Blackwater Worldwide described McArthur as a multipurpose maritime vessel designed to support military and law enforcement training, peacekeeping, and stability operations around the world.[12] In October 2008, it offered McArthur's services to shipping companies, seeking contracts to escort merchant ships in waters off Somalia to provide protection against attacks by Somali pirates.[13] However, McArthur was far too slow to keep up with the ships she was expected to protect.[14]

The whistleblower organization WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables that related to McArthur.[15][16] The cables show that diplomats in the region where Blackwater/Xe/Academi proposed to operate McArthur to escort merchant ships requested guidance over the extent to which they should support Blackwater's attempts to secure customers for McArthur. Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times noted

But with the Obama administration just weeks old, American diplomats in Djibouti faced a problem. They are supposed to be advocates for American businesses, but this was Blackwater, a company that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had proposed banning from war zones when she was a presidential candidate.

According to Wired magazine, civil suits from McArthur's civilian crew members caused cancellation of plans to employ her on military missions;[8][9] three civilian crew members filed harassment suits.[17] The fully equipped vessel sat moored in Norfolk, awaiting contracts.[18]

By 2010 the company, renamed Xe Services LLC in 2009 and Academi in 2011, was offering McArthur for sale. After Blackwater converted her in 2007, McArthur was said to be worth $15 million (USD), but by 2010 Xe was willing to sell her for $3.7 million.


  1. ^ NOAA Ship McArthur II / R-330 Welcome aboard Packet - - Retrieved December 27, 2007
  2. ^ Per NOAA Marine Operations (at
  3. ^ Per Combat Fleets of the World 1984/85, p. 987.
  4. ^ a b [1]
  5. ^ NOAA History: Hall of Honor: Commerce Medals Presented For Lifesaving and the Protection of Property 1955-2000
  6. ^
  7. ^ Sharon Weinberger (2007-10-09). "Blackwater Hits the High Seas". Wired magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-02-22. Lost amid the latest brouhaha, was a small report that Blackwater had bought and refurbished the McArthur, a 183-ft. ship that boasts "state of the art navigation systems, full GMDDSS communications, SEATEL Broadband, dedicated command and control bas, helicopter decks, hospital and multiple support vessel capabilities."
  8. ^ a b Nathan Hodge (2009-05-14). "Blackwater's Pirate-Fighting Ops Sunk After Discrimination Suits". Wired magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-02-22. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell did not comment direct on the litigation, but she said one of the employees was terminated for cause. Regarding the discrimination suit, she told Virginian-Pilot the company "does not condone and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind and takes allegations to the contrary very seriously." But she also disclosed that the company is no longer doing counter-piracy work.
  9. ^ a b Spencer Ackerman (2011-01-20). "Did Blackwater Founder Fund Somalia's Pirate Fighters? [Updated]". Wired magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. If Prince really is involved in the Saracen deal, it would update an earlier Blackwater effort to battle pirates off the Somali coast. In 2008, Blackwater announced it was "ready to assist the shipping industry," with a .50-cal-equipped pirate-hunting ship fashioned out of an oceanographic research boat. Alas, those plans got knocked off course as crewmembers began suing the company for discrimination. Did Prince want one more shot at the pirates and the terrorists — and the government paychecks?
  10. ^ Bill Sizemore (2007-09-18). "Blackwater showing off new training ship at Nauticus". Norfolk, Virginia: Virginia Pilot. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2014-05-29. According to a press release issued by Nauticus, Blackwater's maritime division will operate vessels suitable for training, disaster response, law enforcement, surveillance and security, including anti-terrorism and anti-piracy activities.
  11. ^ Phil Ewing (2008-10-28). "Blackwater: 13 firms want pirate protection". Navy Times. Archived from the original on 2013-02-22. Blackwater CEO Erik Prince said the world's shipping firms are eager for as much protection as possible for their vessels, partly because the U.S. and international warships in the Gulf of Aden haven't done enough to stop or dissuade piracy.
  12. ^ Barry Seper (2008-12-04). "Blackwater Joins Fight Against Sea Piracy". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 2008-12-06. Formerly a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel, the McArthur was put in service in 1966 and decommissioned in 2003. Reconfigured and modified in 2006, the ship is now considered a Blackwater Worldwide maritime security support craft. Blackwater´s aviation affiliate can provide the helicopters, pilots and maintenance required to support escort missions in the Gulf of Aden.
  13. ^ Louis Hansen (2008-10-18). "Blackwater Sets Sights on Somali Pirates". Virginia Beach: The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on 2008-10-19. For anti-piracy operations, the 14-sailor crew would be supplemented with Blackwater security guards, four rigid-hull inflatable boats and helicopters, Mathews said. Security teams could follow a merchant vessel by air and land.
  14. ^ Hooper, Craig (January 7, 2010). "In press: Blackwater's pirate-fighting navy". Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  15. ^ Lauren Frayer (2010-12-01). "WikiLeaks: Blackwater Was Planning to Hunt Pirates". Aol News. Archived from the original on 2011-02-02. That's according to secret U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks. The cables quote the U.S. ambassador in Djibouti, James Swan, as asking the State Department for "guidance on the appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater." After all, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had proposed banning Blackwater from war zones when she was running for president less than a year earlier.
  16. ^ Mark Mazzetti (2010-11-30). "Blackwater Aimed to Hunt Pirates". New York Times. Washington DC. p. A13. Archived from the original on 2012-12-21. The company's chief executive officer, Erik Prince, was planning a trip to Djibouti for a promotional event in March 2009, and Blackwater was hoping that the American Embassy there would help out, according to a secret State Department cable.
  17. ^ "Blackwater pirate fighting ship sidelined by its own crew". The Maritime Blog. 2009-05-16. Archived from the original on 2013-02-22. Life on board the McArthur was apparently not so good. Blackwater, now re-named Xe, now has three separate harassment claims from crewmembers who sailed aboard the ship on its recent voyage to the Middle East.
  18. ^ "Blackwater's pirate-fighting navy has sunk!". United States Naval Institute. 2010-01-04. Archived from the original on 2013-02-22. And by May 2009, the ship had dissolved into something more akin to Animal House than a buttoned-down pirate fighter. But then what does one expect from a company run by a boss who, after reaping a political windfall, cries like a baby once the going gets hard?


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