Eastern lays keel for Coast Guard’s third OPC

(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) — Eastern Shipbuilding Group hosted the keel authentication ceremony Friday for the U.S. Coast Guard’s future offshore patrol cutter (OPC) USCGC Ingham (WMSM 917), the third vessel in the new Heritage class built at the Nelson Street facility.

The presiding official for the Coast Guard was Rear Adm. Chad Jacoby, director of acquisition programs and program executive officer (CG-93). Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., was the senior official in attendance.

“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.

Eastern Shipbuilding Group photos

The ship’s sponsor is Sen. 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 home-ported in Kodiak, Alaska, with Murkowski’s signature welded on the keel. She has worked to ensure that those stationed there will have new housing, an updated child development center, and a new fuel pier.

“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,” Murkowski said. “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 represent a naval tradition of naming ships for previous vessels. Three U.S. Revenue Service cutters and one highly distinguished Coast Guard cutter bearing the name Ingham are etched in United States history.

The first Ingham was named in honor of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Samuel Ingham and was bestowed with the axiom “Semper paratus” in 1836, nearly 60 years before the 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 its decommissioning, it was the oldest cutter in commission, the most decorated vessel in the Coast Guard fleet, the last active warship to sink a WWII U-boat, and the only cutter to be awarded two Presidential Unit Citations. The future USCGC Ingham 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,” said Bruce “Beemer” Yokely, president of the Ingham Association. “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.”

D’Isernia was accompanied on the podium by Jacoby and Karlier Robinson, the expert welder charged with welding the sponsor’s initials onto the ceremonial keel authentication plate.

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 its initials into the keel. This practice is commemorated by welding the ship’s sponsor’s initials into the keel authentication plate.

– Eastern Shipbuilding Group

By Rich Miller