Coventry, R.I.- Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis arrived in Athens Wednesday with his family to travel to his home island of Andros and visit the island of Kefallonia. In addition to enjoying a family vacation, Raptakis has a tentative meeting scheduled with the Minister of Merchant Marine Manolis Kefaloyiannis to provide a briefing on the latest results regarding the environmental testing for the Arthur M. Huddell. Raptakis has been working to arrange the United States governmentʼs donation of the Huddell to Greece for use as a floating museum in Piraeus, dedicated to the history of the Greek merchant marine and its impact on the nation, as well as the historic ties of friendship between Greece and the United States. The environmental tests are the last remaining obstacle to the donation.
In addition to the meeting on the Liberty Ship, Raptakis will be meeting with Professor Thalassinos, Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Piraeus, to discuss a cooperative agreement between his institution and the University of Rhode Island (URI). Raptakis said URI already has an agreement with the University of the Aegean. Professor Thalassinos is scheduled to visit Rhode Island and Massachusetts in March 2008 with a group of graduate students and Raptakis is hoping to further the educational partnership to encourage strong ties between the schools.
As much as I enjoy simply returning to Greece with my family, there are a number of important issues that I am hoping to advance during this trip,” said Raptakis. “The Liberty Ship project is nearing an important milestone and I want to make sure we are all working together to keep this project moving forward. At the same time, I am excited about the opportunity to build a lasting relationship between the University of Piraeus and the University of Rhode Island, which has one of the top oceanography programs in the world.”
Raptakis is also planning to meet with Spyros Polemis, Managing Director of Seacrest Shipping Company, an early supporter of the Liberty Project who has been instrumental in advancing the donation of the Huddell. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required testing of the vessel to make sure it is compliance with environmental laws before signing off on the donation. The test are being coordinated by the United States Maritime administration, which indicated that some 800 samples were taken from the Huddell between the weeks of May 20th and June 3rd.