ABU DHABI // The visit of the US navy dock landing ship USS Rushmore to the new Port Khalifa yesterday was a historic moment, the American ambassador Michael Corbin said.
"I look forward to having US ships visiting the Khalifa Port on a regular basis. The use of this unique state-of-the-art facility for our naval vessels is yet another symbol of the strong strategic bilateral relationship that the United States shares with the United Arab Emirates," Mr Corbin said.
The USS Rushmore is based in Bahrain with the US Fifth Fleet. The ship was commissioned in 1991 and its first deployment was in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, the largest military humanitarian operation in history, said the captain, Cmdr Tate Robinson.
His ship spearheaded the beach landing and delivered military hardware, food and medical relief.
"The ship's current deployment is in the Gulf and last month we conducted excercises with UAE forces where helicopter landing training took place onboard our flight deck," Cmdr Robinson said.
He said Port Khalifa was valuable because of its deep-water access and its facilities. "It is an easy port to pull in to and it has all the services that we need. We are currently conducting routine maintenance so its very strategic to us."
Mr Corbin said US ships would continue to use Mina Zayed and Jebel Ali Port but Port Khalifa added another dimension and facility for the America's strategic operations in the area.
"This port is strategic because it is going to be linked to the Emirates Rail system as well as its proximity to both the Abu Dhabi International Airport and the Maktoum Airport in Dubai.
"This location is a definite asset to the Fifth Fleet command because, apart from securing the Strait of Hormuz and keeping it open, our fleet conducts anti-piracy operations in the area," he said.
The USS Rushmore has a complement of 45 officers and petty officers, 302 sailors and 400 Marines.