Building the national security cutter: Keel laying

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp speaks at a keel-laying ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp speaks at a keel-laying ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

A keel is the very foundation of a ship. Running from bow to stern, a ship’s keel historically served as the core for the rest of the ship’s structure, providing a source of strength for the superstructure above. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard’s fourth national security cutter, named for Alexander Hamilton, symbolically received that source of strength.

Hamilton marked a major milestone in its journey towards commissioning at a traditional keel-laying ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. What was once just 100 tons of steel plate is now fully on its way to becoming a 418-foot sentinel of our shores.

Kawana Womack, a shipyard employee, welds Linda Papp's initials to the hull of the ship. Papp, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp's wife, is the ship's sponsor. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Kawana Womack, a shipyard employee, welds Linda Kapral Papp’s initials to the hull of the ship. Papp, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp’s wife, is the ship’s sponsor. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“It’s amazing to see how far shipbuilding has changed. Instead of a keel constructed of solid timbers of slow-growing oak that serves as the foundation of the wooden frames and the keel posts and the stem, we have great steel modules like the one behind me that are assembled separately and joined together to complete the hull,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp at the ceremony.

Ultimately commissioned as Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton, the ship will be one of the most capable ships in the Coast Guard cutter fleet. Not only will Hamilton be one of the most capable, it will also be one of the most well-known.

“We’re giving this ship the name Hamilton which is really revered by those of us in the Coast Guard and I’m a real Hamilton fan,” said Papp. “We’re very proud that another ship is going to carry his name.”

Hamilton is a name known throughout Coast Guard history and through National Security Cutter Hamilton, the sixth cutter to bear the name, the Coast Guard will continue to protect Americans well into the Coast Guard’s third century of service to the nation.

Hamilton will take advantage of superior range and endurance with 90-plus-day patrol cycles, the ability to deploy two ship-helicopters and two boats on missions ranging from enforcing America’s maritime interests to humanitarian responses.

The keel-laying ceremony is a momentous event in the life of a ship and recognizes the community, shipbuilders, crew and all families involved. And it was with families in mind the ship’s sponsor, Linda Kapral Papp, etched her initials into a placard permanently affixed to the hull. As the sponsor, she hopes to honor Hamilton’s legacy by focusing on families and resiliency.

Ship's sponsor Linda Papp etches her initials into a placard at a keel-laying ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Ship’s sponsor Linda Kapral Papp etches her initials into a placard at a keel-laying ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“On behalf of all Coast Guard family members, I’m honored to serve as sponsor for National Security Cutter Hamilton,” said Linda Kapral Papp. “The strength and sacrifices of our family members enable Coast Guardsmen to successfully carry out critical operations every day ensuring the nation’s safety and security.”

Hamilton will soon join Coast Guard cutters Bertholf, Waesche and Stratton in guarding our nation’s shores, and its next milestone will be the ship’s christening, scheduled for 2013. But before then, there’s still work to be done.

Today’s keel-laying ceremony ended with the words, “The keel has been truly and fairly laid.” For the shipbuilders and crew, these few words signify Hamilton’s construction must continue; there are Coast Guard missions to execute and a legacy of a Coast Guard stalwart must live on.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=788465283 Carol Sly

    Let’s talk about project Deep Water and how the lowest bid got ships that were not sea worthy. What was done differently with these ships?

  • Steven H

    These ships are probably the most sea worthy ship built for the USCG in decades. They’re to slow for todays standards and they’re not building enough of them but they are sea worthy.

  • Joseph Remi

    “It’s amazing to see how far shipbuilding has changed. Instead of a keel
    constructed of solid timbers of slow-growing oak that serves as the
    foundation of the wooden frames and the keel posts and the stem, we have
    great steel modules like the one behind me that are assembled
    separately and joined together to complete the hull,” said Coast Guard
    Commandant Adm. Bob Papp at the ceremony.”

    He sounds like he’s talking from personal experience….