The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) said it is preparing a combined cargo and passenger ship bound for relief duty in Haiti.

The Alakai, crewed with US civilian mariners, will be used for ferry service in Haiti following the earthquake last week that devastated the capital Port-au-Prince, the department said.

The US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the ship would help relief workers on the ground by enabling quick movement of people in and out of Haiti from various staging points.

The Alakai can carry up to 866 passengers and reach almost 40kt.

The vessel joins five other MARAD ships activated over the past week, it said.