Ketchikan: Christening of the M/V Susitna and Keel Laying for the Ken Eichner II

Alaska Ship and Dry dock, Ketchikan Alaska.

Good Morning. It is my pleasure to be back home in Ketchikan for such a great event. We are here today to christen the marvelous new ship, the M/V Susitna, and lay the keel for the M/V Ken Eichner-2. With these two vessels, we are also celebrating the success of the Alaska Ship and Drydock. Let’s first talk about the M/V Sustina first. I was there at the beginning with the name. I was with you here, almost four years ago, on August 24, 2006 for the keel laying of this vessel and I remember welding my name onto the keel and starting what has become an incredible success story. We have seen exceptional engineering and craftsmanship- it’s a good thing I didn’t stay on as a welder!

The construction of the M/V Susitna is a tremendous accomplishment. It was one of the most complex ship building projects that you could possibly imagine and the performance of the Ketchikan shipyard truly should be applauded. It really is a world-class state of the art vessel. This project is the product of collaboration between many different partners, most prominently the Office of Naval Research, the Mat-Su Borough and Alaska Ship and Dry dock.

While the purpose of this project was to explore the design, construction and operation of an experimental hull design, they were really breaking new ground with this vessel. As an example, it is the first ship ever built to operate as a shallow draft boat AND a high speed twin hulled vessel. And to make the job even more complex, in order to operate in the challenging environment of Cook Inlet, the vessel is also ice-strengthened. It is the first icebreaker to use its hull to go under the ice to break it from underneath.

The challenges of building such a technologically advanced vessel at Alaska Ship and Dry dock demanded the yard be extremely innovative. I want to recognize the project team here at the shipyard for being so creative in the construction and manufacturing of the ship. Randy, you have a first class operation and crew here at the shipyard.

We are also here to lay the keel for the new airport ferry, the Ken Eichner-2. The M/V Ken Eichner 2 is the second airport ferry that the Ketchikan shipyard has built for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. They built the first one, the M/V Oral Freeman in year 2000.

Like the American flag that Ken Eichner would fly under his helicopter for the 4th of July celebration in Ketchikan, Ken’s name will be remembered to us all and tens of thousands visitors for years to come as the M/V Ken Eichner 2 crosses the Tongass Narrows every 30 minutes, every day.

So today we celebrate the near completion of a world class experimental vessel and the keel laying of the next generation of airport ferry. This double ceremony, a Keel Laying and a Christening is a very rare event in the shipbuilding industry and is certainly a first for Alaska. I would like to make these double headers regular events.

I am so proud that two projects like this could be done right here in Ketchikan. Truly made in Alaska. This special day marks Ketchikan as somewhere where U. S. innovation, productivity, and quality of life is alive, well, and open for business.

Congratulations to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the Mat-Su Borough, the Office of Naval Research and especially, to Alaska Ship and Dry dock, your management team, all your employees and to all of you who contributed to this incredible ship. Thank you all for being here today.