Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. (ESG), Panama City, Fla., hosted the keel authentication ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard’s future Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC Ingham (WMSM-917) on July 15. The vessel is the third in the new Heritage Class being built at Eastern’s Nelson Street shipyard.
The keel authentication, also known as keel laying, represents the ceremonial start of a ship’s life by commemorating the assembly of the initial modular construction units. Historically, to attest that the keel was properly laid and of excellent quality, the shipbuilder would carve their initials into the keel. This practice is commemorated by welding the ship’s sponsor’s initials into the keel authentication plate.
“Today marks another pivotal milestone in the legacy of the Heritage Class Offshore Patrol Cutters constructed here in Panama City as we now have three OPCs in full production on time and on budget. I’m proud of our workforce for delivering shipbuilding excellence to the men and women of the USCG,” said ESG president Joey D’Isernia.
The ship’s sponsor is Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and strong advocate for the national defense and coastal priorities in the Pacific and Arctic regions. USCGC Ingham will be homeported in Kodiak, Alaska, with Sen. Murkowski’s signature welded on the keel.
“Thank you to the U.S. Coast Guard and Eastern Shipbuilding Group for inviting me to join a maritime honored tradition—by serving as the ship’s sponsor to the newest Coast Guard Cutter Ingham,” said Murkowski. “I commend the hundreds of skilled professionals at Eastern Shipbuilding Group there in Panama City, Fla., building this vessel. You are experts at your craft and have shown true resilience through the pandemic, supply chain challenges, and a category 5 hurricane. The Offshore Patrol Cutter Ingham will have tremendous capabilities and will be protecting our interests in the Pacific Ocean for decades to come.”
Each of the new Heritage Class Offshore Patrol Cutters follows a naval tradition of naming ships for previous vessels. Three U.S. Revenue Service cutters and one highly distinguished U.S. Coast Guard Cutter have previously borne the name. The first Ingham was named in honor of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Samuel D. Ingham and was bestowed with the axiom “semper paratus” in 1836, nearly 60 years before the U.S. Coast Guard adopted this motto in 1896.
The most recent, USCGC Ingham (WHEC 35), served for over 50 years from 1936 to 1988 in the North Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean during World War II, executing vessel escorts, weather patrols and anti-submarine missions. It assisted weather stations and performed search and rescue during peacetime, and it conducted dozens of naval gunfire support missions during the Vietnam War. At her decommissioning, she was the oldest cutter in commission, the most decorated vessel in the U.S. Coast Guard fleet, the last active warship to sink a WWII U-boat, and was the only cutter to be awarded two Presidential Unit Citations. The future USCGC Ingham (WMSM-917) will carry that legacy for the next 40 years.
“Over the course of the life of the USCG, there have been four vessels to proudly carry the name Ingham. Those vessels were crewed by sailors that were hardened by the sea and strove to accomplish their missions to the best of their ability, often at their own peril. These feats were accomplished using knowledge, skill, and a desire to do the best in all situations. Excellence is the direct outcome of their culture and a legacy we pass to the newest vessel to bear the great name Ingham; WMSM-917. Semper Paratus,” said Bruce “Beemer” Yokely, president of Ingham Association.