Keel laying

Laying the keel or laying down is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction. It is often marked with a ceremony attended by dignitaries from the shipbuilding company and the ultimate owners of the ship.

Keel laying is one of the four specially celebrated events in the life of a ship; the others are launching, commissioning, and decommissioning.

In earlier times, the event recognized as the keel laying was the initial placement of the central timber making up the backbone of a vessel, called the keel. As steel ships replaced wooden ones, the central timber gave way to a central steel beam.

Modern ships are now largely built in a series of pre-fabricated, complete hull sections rather than being built around a single keel. The event recognized as the keel laying is the first joining of modular components, or the lowering of the first module into place in the building dock. It is now often called "keel authentication", and is the ceremonial beginning of the ship's life, although some modules may have been started months before that stage of construction.[1][2][3]

Driving the first or "golden" rivet during USS Missouri's keel laying, 1941
Laying of the keel of USCGC Mariposa (WLB-397) in 1943
USS Freedom keel laying
Keel laying ceremony for USS Freedom (LCS-1), 2005. Note the pre-fabricated module in the background.


Keel-related traditions from the times of wooden ships are said to bring luck to the ship during construction and to the captain and crew during her later life. They include placing a newly minted coin under the keel and constructing the ship over it, having the youngest apprentice place the coin, and when the ship is finished, presenting the owners with the oak block on which the keel is laid.[4][5] The tradition of the placement of coins derives from the mast stepping custom of placing coins under the mast and is believed to date back to Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome and were intended to "pay the ferryman" to convey the souls of the dead across the River Styx should the ship sink.[6]

US Navy traditions

The first milestone in the history of a ship is the generally simple ceremony that marks the laying of the keel. Invitations to the ceremony are issued by shipyard officials, and the ceremony is conducted by them. The builder may be the commander of a naval shipyard or the president of a private company. The ship's prospective name, without the "USS", is mentioned in the invitation, if known; otherwise her type and number are given, e.g., DD 2217.[7]


  1. ^ NAVSEA – Naval Sea Systems Command. "Shipbuilding 101". Archived from the original on 2014-03-19. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  2. ^ "Ship Building Milestones". Navy League of the United States. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
  3. ^ "Australia: Austal Holds Keel-Laying Ceremony..." 8 Jun 2012.
  4. ^ "Keel laying ceremony for two Ro-Ro special ships for DFDS A/S". P+S WERFTEN Gmbh. 9 Aug 2011. Archived from the original on October 22, 2013.
  5. ^ "Aker Philadelphia Shipyard Holds Ceremonial Keel Laying". American Shipping Company. 7 May 2009. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013.
  6. ^ Lenzini, Heidi (January 25, 2013). "Mast Stepping: A Mariner's Tradition | Navy Live". United States Navy. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  7. ^ Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (15 Jun 2001). OPNAVINST 1710.7A – Social Usage and Protocol Handbook (pdf). Washington, DC. p. 9-1.

Float-out is the process in modern shipbuilding that follows the keel laying and precedes the fitting-out process. It is analogous to launching a ship, a specific process that has largely been discontinued in modern shipbuilding. Both floating-out and launching are the times when the ship leaves dry land and becomes waterborne for the first time, and often take place during ceremonies celebrating and commemorating that event.

Italian cruiser Confienza

Confienza was the last of four Goito-class torpedo cruisers built for the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) in the 1880s. She was armed with a variety of light guns and five 14-inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes, and was capable of a top speed of 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph). The ship was built in the late 1880s, with her keel laying in September 1887 at the Arsenale di La Spezia; she was completed in April 1890 and thereafter entered service with the Italian fleet. Confienza had a short and uneventful career; she spent her time in Italian waters and did not see any action. Stricken from the naval register in August 1901, she was thereafter broken up for scrap.

Italian cruiser Euridice

Euridice was a torpedo cruiser of the Partenope class built for the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) in the 1880s. She was built by the Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia shipyard, with her keel laying in February 1889, her launching in September 1890, and her commissioning in May 1891. Her main armament were her six torpedo tubes, which were supported by a battery of ten small-caliber guns. Euridice spent most of her career in the main Italian fleet, where she was primarily occupied with training exercises. She was withdrawn from service in 1907 and sold for scrapping.

LÉ George Bernard Shaw (P64)

LÉ George Bernard Shaw (P64) is a Samuel Beckett-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) of the Irish Naval Service. It is the fourth ship in a series of vessels designed by Vard Marine and built by Babcock Marine Appledore, and is named for writer George Bernard Shaw.

Constructed in Devon, the vessel underwent keel laying in February 2017. The vessel was first floated-out of the dry dock during March 2018, and was delivered to Haulbowline Naval Base on 11 October 2018, pending final fitting out, including installation of the main 76 mm cannon.In December 2018, the vessel was made available for tours by the public in Galway, and it was formally commissioned in April 2019.

MV Chimacum

The MV Chimacum is the third vessel of the Olympic-class auto ferries for the Washington State Ferries system. The ship was built by Vigor Industrial in Seattle, Washington and entered service on the Seattle–Bremerton route in 2017.Funding for a third Olympic class was authorized in the Spring 2014 session of the Washington State Legislature and the keel laying and first weld took place on December 9, 2014.The name Chimacum, the gathering place of the Chemakum tribe, was chosen by the Washington State Transportation Commission in November 2014.The Chimacum has two car decks, a sun deck and a passenger deck.

She was christened on September 14, 2016 by Lynne Griffith, who at the time was serving as the head of the ferries system, the first woman to hold the office. The ceremony took place at the Vigor Industrial shipyard on Seattle's Harbor Island. She was delivered to Washington State Ferries on April 7, 2017, with her entry into service, replacing MV Klahowya, expected in the following months.

She was forced into a three-day early temporary service on May 24 after The MV Kitsap, suffered a mechanical break down and all other vessels were in maintenance until the MV Kaleetan, could replace her on the Seattle–Bremerton run to finish Sea Trials and Training.

Nemo H2

The Nemo H2 is a passenger ship developed by Fuel Cell Boat for 88 people in Amsterdam for which the power for the electric motor is generated by a fuel cell on hydrogen. It is the first boat for 88 people in the Netherlands with a fuel cell. The keel laying was in Hasselt in 2008 and the first boat is in operation on the canals in Amsterdam since December 2009.

Parola-class patrol vessel

The Parola-class patrol vessel is class of patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the ships are a development version of the Japan Coast Guard's Bizan-class patrol vessel.

The ships will be named after primary lighthouses in the Philippines, with the Tagalog word "Parola" meaning "lighthouse" in English. The lead ship, BRP Tubbataha, is named after a major lighthouse situated in the Tubbataha Marine National Park in Palawan. Parola-class patrol vessels are officially classified as Multi-role Response Vessels (MRRV).

The Sail and Steam Navy List

For a list of ships of the Royal Navy, see List of Royal Navy ships.The Sail and Steam Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy 1815–1889 by Rif Winfield and David Lyon is a historical reference work providing details of all recorded ships in commission or intended to serve in the Royal Navy from 1815 to 1889. Where available in Admiralty records (from which all the data is sourced), it gives the location of construction, dates of construction (ordering, keel laying, launch and commissioning), principal dimensions and tonnage, armament, machinery (for steam vessels) and fate of every ship of the Royal Navy over the period.

David Lyon's The Sailing Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy, Built, Purchased and Captured, 1688-1860 had been published in 1993, a ground-breaking study of the sailing vessels of the Royal Navy from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 until the close of the Age of Sail. He had planned a follow-up on the ships of the Royal Navy in the era of transition from sail to steam power, and began work in preparation for that volume. This was cut short by his death in a diving accident during 2000 in the Bahamas (he was an enthusiastic underwater archaeologist).

Shortly after his death, his colleague Rif Winfield, author of the best-selling Fifty Gun Ship, and subsequently the author of a series of volumes under the heading British Warships in the Age of Sail, took over David's accumulated notes, added them to his own extensive research on Royal Naval warships, and carried on this work to produce what the Journal for Maritime Research described as

The book is a valuable reference work and the only complete single-volume published record for ships of the late Georgian era (1714-1837) and of the early (1837-1860) and middle (1860-1889) Victorian Royal Navy. Rif Winfield's subsequent four-volume British Warships in the Age of Sail series has expanded this material to incorporate all vessels of the British (before 1704, English) Navy between 1603 and 1863, and incorporated the results of extra research since the publication of their Sail and Steam Navy List.

USNS City of Bismarck

USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF-9), (formerly JHSV-9), (ex-Sacrifice) is the ninth Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport and operated by the Military Sealift Command. The name was originally announced as Bismarck. It is the first ship in naval service named after Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital city.The keel was laid on 18 January 2017. Former state Attorney General, long time Bismarck resident and retired Navy officer Robert O. Wefald represented North Dakota at the keel laying ceremony. He welded his initials into a steel plate, that would be welded into the ship.On 7 June 2017, USNS City of Bismarck was launched at Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. The City of Bismarck completed acceptance trials on 20 October 2017 and its delivery was accepted by the U.S. Navy on 19 December 2017.

USS Canopus

Three ships of the United States Navy have been named Canopus after a first magnitude star in the constellation Argo.

USS Canopus (AS-9) was launched in 1919 by the New York Shipbuilding Company as the Santa Leonora.

USS Canopus (AD-33) (ordered as AS-27, but reclassified before keel-laying) was a destroyer tender, but construction was canceled in 1945 prior to launching.

USS Canopus (AS-34) was launched on 12 February 1965.

USS Gabrielle Giffords

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) is an Independence-class littoral combat ship of the United States Navy. The ship is named after former United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot along with eighteen other people during a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The ship's name was announced by then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on 10 February 2012. Gabrielle Giffords will be the 16th U.S. naval ship to be named for a woman by the United States Navy, and the 13th U.S. naval ship since 1850 to be named after a living person.Construction on Gabrielle Giffords began with her keel laying on 16 April 2014, at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. Rep. Giffords, still recovering from injuries sustained in the 2011 assassination attempt, attended the ship's keel-laying ceremony, and with the assistance of an Austal welder, welded her initials into a plate that would become part of the ship's hull. Gabrielle Giffords was launched, and then moved from her construction facility to drydock, on 26 February 2015. The ship was christened in a ceremony held at the Austal USA shipyard on 13 June 2015, and Second Lady of the United States Jill Biden served as ship sponsor at the christening. The ship was delivered to the U.S. Navy on 23 December 2016, and commissioned the following spring on 10 June 2017, in Galveston, Texas.

USS Guitarro (SSN-665)

USS Guitarro (SSN-665), a Sturgeon-class submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the guitarro, a ray of the guitarfish family.

USS Illinois (SSN-786)

USS Illinois (SSN-786) is a Virginia-class nuclear powered attack submarine in the United States Navy. Named for the State of Illinois, she is the third vessel to actively serve with the name, the previous two being battleships BB-7 and BB-65. She was built by the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics, the third of their Block III variants which feature a revised bow and technology from the converted sub-class of Ohio guided missile submarines (SSGN). The contract for the build was awarded on 22 December 2008 to Huntington Ingalls Industries in partnership with Electric Boat, and construction commenced with the keel laying ceremony on 2 June 2014, at their yard in Groton, Connecticut. First Lady Michelle Obama served as the ship's sponsor, and christened the boat on 10 October 2015. Illinois was launched on 8 August 2015 and completed sea trials on 2 August 2016. She was delivered to the Navy on 27 August 2016 and commissioned in a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London on 29 October 2016. Michelle Obama, as the sponsor, attended the ceremony and is considered to be an honorary member of the crew due to her support of military families and her involvement with the Illinois crew and their families.

USS John Warner

USS John Warner (SSN-785) is a nuclear powered Virginia-class attack submarine of the United States Navy. She is the first in the class to be named after a person; the first 11 Virginia-class subs were named after states. John Warner was originally to be built by the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut, but the contract was later transferred to Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding. She is the second of the Block III subs, which have a revised bow and some technology from Ohio-class cruise missile submarines. The vessel supports 40 weapons, special operations forces, unmanned undersea vehicles, and the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS).

The name was announced on 8 January 2009, five days after John Warner, a Republican from Virginia, retired after serving 30 years as a United States senator, making John Warner the 13th U.S. Navy vessel to be named for a living person in the last hundred years.

Construction began on 29 April 2009 with the keel laying ceremony being held on 16 March 2013. Because of the modular construction sequence, the submarine was reportedly already about 59% complete before the official keel laying. The submarine was christened on 6 September 2014. John Warner was commissioned on 1 August 2015 with Commander Dan Caldwell in command.On 14 April 2018, while on her first deployment, USS John Warner took part in targeted strikes against Syrian military facilities. She fired six Tomahawk cruise missiles, in what was believed to be the first combat use of her class of submarines.

USS Manchester (LCS-14)

USS Manchester (LCS-14) is an Independence-class littoral combat ship in the United States Navy. She is the second ship to be named for Manchester, New Hampshire.The ship's keel was laid on 29 June 2015, at Mobile, Alabama. The initials of New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen, the ship's sponsor, were welded into the hull of Manchester during the traditional keel laying ceremony. Manchester was christened on 7 May 2016 and she was launched on 12 May 2016. Manchester was commissioned on 26 May 2018.She is assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One.

USS New Hampshire (SSN-778)

USS New Hampshire (SSN-778), a Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, is the fourth vessel of the United States Navy to be named for the state of New Hampshire, although one of her predecessors, BB-70, was authorized but cancelled before keel laying. She is the first of the Virginia Block II submarines to enter service. Her name was awarded to the submarine after a letter-writing campaign by the third-graders from Garrison Elementary School and sixth graders from Dover Middle School in Dover to their members of Congress, the state governor, and the Secretary of the Navy.

USS South Dakota (SSN-790)

USS South Dakota (SSN-790), is a nuclear powered Virginia-class submarine in service with the United States Navy. The contract to build her was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries in partnership with the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Newport News, Virginia on 22 December 2008. This boat is the seventh of the Block III submarines which will feature a revised bow, including some technology from Ohio-class SSGNs.The keel laying ceremony took place on 4 April 2016. The boat's sponsor is Deanie Dempsey, wife of General Martin Dempsey, US Army (retired). Her christening ceremony took place on 14 October 2017 in Groton, Connecticut. Named for the state of South Dakota, she is the third navy vessel to carry the name, the previous ships being South Dakota (ACR-9) (name later changed to Huron), followed by South Dakota (BB-57).

USS Tulsa (LCS-16)

USS Tulsa (LCS-16) is an Independence-class littoral combat ship of the United States Navy. She is the third ship to be named for Tulsa, second-largest city in the U.S. state of Oklahoma.Tulsa was constructed by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama. A keel laying ceremony, which usually signifies the startìng of ship construction, was held at the Austal shipyards in Mobile on 11 January 2016, but because the ship was assembled from prefabricated modules, Tulsa was already 60 percent complete at the time. Kathy Taylor, former mayor of Tulsa, served as ship's sponsor.

Tulsa was christened on 11 February 2017, launched on 16 March 2017, and commissioned on 16 February 2019. She has been assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One


The project Zemships (Zero Emissions Ships) developed the FCS Alsterwasser, a 100 person hydrogen-power passenger ship, power-assisted by an electric motor that gets its electricity from a fuel cell. The first boat operates on the Alster in Hamburg since 2008. The keel laying at the SSB shipyard in Oortkaten was on 4 December 2007.


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