Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: May 22, 2023

Full steam ahead: Two Maine institutions lay keels for new ships

people walking in line outside Courtesy / Maine Maritime Academy Maine Maritime Academy students walk to the keel-laying ceremony at the Philadelphia Shipyard.
Plans call for the ship to berth up to 1,000 people in times of humanitarian need.
More Information

Construction of two major — if very different — ships began last week with the laying of keels, a formal ceremony often marked by the attendance of dignitaries as well as the shipbuilders and ship owners.

From Castine, Maine Maritime Academy students and faculty participated in a keel-laying ceremony held at the Philadelphia Shipyard for its new training ship State of Maine.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works laid the keel of the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126), which will be BIW’s first Flight III Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer.

Semper Fi

The U.S. Navy named the ship in honor of Marine Corps Gen. Louis H. Wilson Jr., who served as commandant of the Marine Corps. Wilson served during World War II and received the Medal of Honor for his leadership and valor at the Battle of Guam. The ship’s sponsors are the Hon. Susan J. Rabern, captain, U.S. Navy (ret.) and Janet Wilson Taylor, Wilson’s daughter.

4 people with square of metal
Courtesy / Bath Iron Works
Eric Chase, left, a welding specialist at BIW, attended the keel-laying ceremony attended by the Hon. Susan J. Rabern, USN (ret.), . ship sponsors, and Janet Wilson Taylor, daughter of the ship’s namesake, along with BIW welding superintendent Dana Richardson.

Rabern and Taylor authenticated the keel by striking welding arcs onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship. They were assisted by Eric Chase, a welding specialist and work leader with 13 years of experience at BIW who's supporting the ship’s main engine room No. 1. 

Navy personnel and BIW shipbuilders attended the ceremony. The laying of the keel and its authentication signified the start of hull integration and the precursor to final integration, launch and sea trials.

The future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. is the first Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyer to be built at Bath Iron Works. The Flight III configuration includes the AN/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar, providing greatly enhanced warfighting capability to the fleet. 

“The skill and hard work of our shipbuilding team are making DDG 126 a ship we can be proud to say is Bath-built,” BIW President Chuck Krugh said in a news release. “When it sails down the Kennebec River, this ship will be ready to carry out its mission of protecting our nation and our families just as its namesake, Louis H. Wilson Jr., did throughout his distinguished career.”

Vessel training

Maine Maritime Academy celebrated the first significant milestone in the life of the ship that will ultimately become its new training vessel. 

The keel-laying ceremony was held at the Philadelphia Shipyard for the Maritime Administration’s National Security Multi-mission Vessel (NSMV) III, which will be delivered to the academy in fall 2024. 

The NSMVs are designed to provide world-class training for future U.S. mariners and to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in times of need. The NSMV III will replace the current training vessel, State of Maine, which has served the academy since 1997. 

The NSMV is a new class of vessels designed specifically for training purposes, with eight classrooms, a full training bridge, lab spaces and an auditorium. The vessel will also be designed to respond to national disasters, as the State of Maine did in response to Hurricane Katrina. The ship includes two separate engine rooms, providing significant spaces for engine training. Plans call for the ship to berth up to 1,000 people in times of humanitarian need. It will have roll-on/roll-off capability and container storage, full hospital facilities and a helicopter landing pad.

The new vessel will also be named State of Maine, the fifth Maine Maritime Academy training ship to bear the moniker. 

“A keel laying is one of the most symbolic events in the construction of a new vessel, soliciting good luck during her construction and for her passengers and crew on future journeys,” Maine Maritime Academy President Jerry Paul said in a separate news release. 

The ceremony was attended by the cadets who will sail on its first training voyage in summer 2025. 

The current State of Maine is on a training voyage of more than two months, giving 212 students critical seagoing experience and taking them to eight domestic and foreign ports of call. Her voyage includes eight domestic and foreign ports of call. The vessel has stopped in New York and Philadelphia. The remainder of the itinerary includes stops in Ponta Delgada, Azores; Vigo, Spain; Kiel, Germany; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Boston before returning to Castine on July 19.The State of Maine made Philadelphia one of the ports of call to coincide with the keel-laying ceremony. 

“Training voyages aboard State of Maine are amazing experiences for our cadets,” said Capt. Gordon “Mac” MacArthur, master of State of Maine. “The learning opportunities provided by living and working aboard a ship for several weeks at a time are the experiences that make a Maine Maritime Academy education special." 

The NSMV III is one of five vessels being built as part of the Maritime Administration’s NSMV development program. Congress appropriated funding to replace aging training vessels with NSMVs at five institutions, including SUNY Maritime College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Texas A&M Maritime Academy and California State University Maritime, in addition to Maine Maritime Academy.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF