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Monday, 27 March 2017 12:14

New Red Cross ship to serve as ambulance and disaster response vessel

Now on its 70th year, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has welcomed the newest—and biggest—member of its family: a 195-foot military prototype vessel the PRC will use as its ambulance and disaster response ship.

But as with any new member of a family, the ship needs to be christened with its own name.

 From April 1 to April 15, PRC is holding the #NameThatRedCrossShip contest to encourage the public to be part of Philippine history by helping name the country’s only humanitarian ship.

 The name

 To join the contest, one must first sign up to become a PRC volunteer. Participants can inquire about this through the PRC chapters in their own communities, or they can log on to the #NameThatRedCrossShip microsite at

 Below are the guidelines for the #NameThatRedCrossShip contest.

1.On PRC’s Facebook page (, click the button “Name That Red Cross Ship.” The participant will be redirected to the microsite where he/she can proceed with naming the ship.

2.To name the ship, participant must fill out the form with proposed name and the reason behind the name.   Following traditional naming conventions for ships, proposed name must be female in form. Proposed ship must also reflect PRC’s fundamental principles and/or be named after a PRC heroine.  

3. The participant can share his/her humanitarianism with friends by sharing the logo of the contest on his/her own Facebook page. 

Proposed names must follow these criteria: originality – 30%; relevance to the organization – 30%; and impact – 40%.
The participant who comes up with the chosen name will win a special prize, and will be invited to the ship’s grand launch, tentatively scheduled for next month.


The ship

Three years ago, when Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines, it took some time for aid to arrive in the hard hit areas in Eastern Visayas due to impassable roads and the closure of airports and seaports, which made it difficult for the government and humanitarian actors like the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to bring relief to the affected areas. Trucks carrying humanitarian aid had to line up for days to be accommodated in seaports and sea vessels going to the affected areas.

That experience compelled PRC to think of a way forward to ensure that life-saving services and goods reach affected populations in the fastest possible time and in the most efficient manner.

Hence, last year, PRC made one of its boldest moves to date—the purchase of a ship that ensures it can effectively perform its humanitarian work in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific Region.

"The ship is the realization of our vision to establish the Philippine Red Cross as the foremost humanitarian organization in the country, capable of delivering timely humanitarian services that save lives and restore the dignity of the most vulnerable," said PRC Chairman Richard Gordon.

With the hard work of Chairman Gordon and PRC Secretary General Oscar Palabyab, who shared his vision, and with the support and funding of partners in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, like the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, British Red Cross, German Red Cross, and Japanese Red Cross, the purchase of the ship was completed and it finally arrived in the country last Dec. 2, 2016. It is currently docked at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Olongapo City. Since the ship’s arrival, the spirit of volunteerism has been truly felt with the outpour of support from various stakeholders.


The mission

Originally called M/V Susitna, PRC’s humanitarian originated from Matanuska-Susitna Borough in the US state of Alaska.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly unanimously approved the plan to sell the ferry to the PRC for USD 1.75 million (approximately PHP 88 million), a fraction of what the borough originally hoped to get for it.

Capable of operating both as cargo-loaded barge that can haul itself onto shore and a twin-hulled vessel that cuts through choppy seas, M/V Susitna will be the country's first humanitarian ship and disaster response vessel.

The PRC plans to use the ship as rapid transport and landing vessel for Red Cross' emergency units. It will also serve as relief supply transport ship, medical facility deployment ship, sea rescue and mass evacuation vessel, humanitarian logistics ship, mobile operations command post, and humanitarian education and training ship.

The ship’s space can hold up to 120 passengers, 20 vehicles, and has a 35-ton overall freight capacity. Its main deck can be lowered to offload equipment and land on beaches in as little as four feet of water.

Without cargo, the ship is capable of evacuating a thousand people to safety during large-scale disasters. Without that many people, the ship can carry 6x6 trucks, ambulances, and relief goods to people affected by disasters in one relief mission. 

 "Aside from being used to respond to future disasters, the ship will also be used in our current operations in response to previous disasters that hit our country last year, such as typhoons Ferdie, Karen, Lawin, Nina, and most recently, the magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Surigao," said Secretary General Palabyab.

 The ship needs only a maximum of six personnel as crew, and last year, PRC entered into an agreement with the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific for the provision of crew and maintenance for the ship. However, the PRC is urging the public for volunteers who wanted to help maintain the ship, especially during disaster operations.

 The Challenge

 The fuel cost to complete a relief and rescue mission (from origin to destination and back) using the ship can reach as high as P 2.4 million.

 To help the ship fulfill its humanitarian mission, PRC needs more volunteers, partners, and donors. Anyone interested to help out can reach PRC through their website at

 “No cost is greater than the value of lives that we can save,” said Gordon.