PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — The keel laying ceremony has been a tradition in shipbuilding for more than 100 years. It represents the start of a ship’s life.

Monday, the Eastern Shipbuilding group hosted that ceremony for the United States Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter “Chase.”

Eastern Shipbuilding Group President Joey Disernia said this is the beginning of a new era for the United States Coast Guard.

“What we have before us today is the keel laying milestone when the first two large units are joined. Essentially the birth of the vessel,” Disernia said.

This vessel will be critical for national security missions for years to come.

At the ceremony – members of the coast guard gave their remarks and it was topped off with an honor. 

The ship’s sponsor, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, welded her initials onto the keel of the ship. This is an honor because she is now a permanent member of the ship’s crew.

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant for the U.S. Coast guard said this ship will one day host a 126 member crew and be able to complete a variety of missions.  

“This is an exciting time,” Schultz said. “That is the backbone of the coast guards recapitalization efforts for offshore interests and really when you think about what these ships do they project our national sovereign interests across the globe.”

This ship is expected to be ready and on the water in about a year. Until then thousands of people will be here working on it, creating a huge economic boost for the community.

“It will be transformational to the area economy and it will bring our industrial base to where it really needs to be to diversify the economy away from strictly tourism but also with heavy industry,” Disernia said.

“Chase” is one of two Coast Guard ships currently being built at the Eastern Shipbuilding Group. A third will come soon.

“It will be a great asset for the coast guard and it’s going to live within the coast guard fleet for 40 years or more,” Disernia said.