USNS Comfort “floating hospital” headed for Puerto Rico to provide aide

USNS Comfort relief mission underway

Today, the USNS Comfort has embarked on a path straight for Puerto Rico to provide aid to the U.S. territory recently devastated by Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to land a direct hit on the island in nearly a century.

The damage caused by Hurricane Maria left the island without electricity while also subjecting residents to flash floods and mudslides.

Puerto Rico USNS Comfort
Collapsed building as a result of Hurricane Maria. Via The New York Times

As for the USNS Comfort, the 894′ long ship has a maximum speed of approximately 20 miles per hour (17.5 knots) and is expected to reach Puerto Rico by Tuesday.

Capable of caring for at least 200 patients a day, the ship departed from Virgina equipped with enough medical supplies for at least 30 days. The ship departed with a crew of 800 service members, as well as 70 civil mariners.

While some view the ships departure as a slow response from the Trump administration, the USNS Comfort will bring a wide spectrum of medical care and equipment including family medicine and pediatrics. Also on board, the floating hospital boasts a dental suite, one CAT scan unit, four X-ray machines, a physical therapy center and even a pharmacy.

More about the USNS Comfort

The Comfort was originally an oil tanker built in 1976 by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company. The ship was originally named SS Rose City  before being converted into a hospital ship and joining the Navy fleet.


SS Rose City
SS Rose City in dry dock undergoing conversion (1986), via NavSource

Per the Geneva Conventions, the USNS Comfort does not carry any offensive weapons, including the crew. As a non-combat vessel, military personnel from combat specialties are also not assigned as crew or staff.

To date, the USNS Comfort has been deployed numerous times, from the Persian Gulf War, to Hurricane Katrina, the ship has provided “rapid, flexible, and mobile medical and surgical services” to a variety of humanitarian efforts.

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