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Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of
project commissioning Project commissioning is the process of assuring that all systems and components of a building or industrial plant are designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained according to the operational requirements of the owner or final client. ...
. The term is most commonly applied to placing a
warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and ...
in
active duty Active duty is a full-time occupation as part of a military force, as opposed to reserve duty. In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is ...
with its country's military forces. The ceremonies involved are often rooted in centuries-old naval tradition.
Ship naming and launching Ceremonial ship launching involves the performance of ceremonies associated with the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a nautical tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years, to accompany the physical proc ...
endow a ship hull with her identity, but many milestones remain before she is completed and considered ready to be designated a commissioned ship. The engineering plant, weapon and
electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses active devices to control electron flow b ...
systems,
galley A galley is a type of that is propelled mainly by . The galley is characterized by its long, slender hull, shallow , and low (clearance between sea and railing). Virtually all types of galleys had sails that could be used in favorable winds, b ...
, and other equipment required to transform the new hull into an operating and habitable warship are installed and tested. The prospective commanding officer, ship's officers, the
petty officer A Petty Officer (PO) is a non-commissioned officer A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not pursued a Commission (document), commission. Non-commissioned officers usually earn their position of authority by promotion t ...

petty officer
s, and seamen who will form the crew report for training and familiarization with their new ship. Before commissioning, the new ship undergoes
sea trials A sea trial is the testing phase of a watercraft (including boats, ships, and submarines). It is also referred to as a "shakedown cruise" by many naval personnel. It is usually the last phase of construction and takes place on open water, and it ...
to identify any deficiencies needing correction. The preparation and readiness time between christening-launching and commissioning may be as much as three years for a
nuclear-powered Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reaction In nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents and interactions. Other forms of nuclear matter are also studied. Nuclear physics sh ...
aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier is a that serves as a seagoing , equipped with a full-length and facilities for . Typically, it is the of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to worldwide without depending on . Carriers have evolved since their incepti ...
to as brief as twenty days for a
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
landing ship An amphibious warfare ship (or amphib) is an amphibious vehicle warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces A military, also ...
. USS ''Monitor'', of
American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon nove ...
fame, was commissioned less than three weeks after launch.


Commissioning a ship


Sea trials

Regardless of the type of ship in question, a vessel's journey towards commissioning in its nation's navy begins with a process known as sea trials. Sea trials usually take place some years after a vessel was laid down, and mark the interim step between the completion of a ship's construction and its official acceptance for service with its nation's navy. Sea trials begin when the ship is floated out of its dry dock (or more rarely, moved by a vehicle to the sea from its construction hangar, as was the case with the
submarine A submarine (or sub) is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability. It is also sometimes used historically or colloquially to refer to remotely operated ...

submarine
), at which time the initial crew for a ship (usually a skeleton crew composed of yard workers and naval personnel; in the modern era of increasingly complex ships the crew will include technical representatives of the ship builder and major system subcontractors) will assume command of the vessel in question. The ship is then sailed in littoral waters to test the design, equipment, and other ship specific systems to ensure that they work properly and can handle the equipment that they will be using in the future. Tests during this phase can include launching missiles from missile magazines, firing the ship's gun (if so equipped), conducting basic flight tests with rotary and fixed-wing aircraft that will be assigned to the ship, and various tests of the electronic and propulsion equipment. Often during this phase of testing problems arise relating to the state of the equipment on the ship, which can require returning to the builder's shipyard to address those concerns. In addition to problems with a ship's arms, armament, and equipment, the sea trial phase a ship undergoes prior to commissioning can identify issues with the ship's design that may need to be addressed before it can be accepted into service. During her sea trials in 1999 French Naval officials determined that the was too short to safely operate the E2C Hawkeye, resulting in her return to the builder's shipyard for enlargement. After a ship has successfully cleared its sea trial period, it will officially be accepted into service with its nation's navy. At this point, the ship in question will undergo a process of
degaussingDegaussing is the process of decreasing or eliminating a remnant magnetic field A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence on moving electric charges, electric currents, and magnetic materials. A moving charge in a ...
and/or
depermingDegaussing is the process of decreasing or eliminating a remnant magnetic field A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence on moving electric charges, electric currents, and magnetic materials. A moving charge in a ...
, to reduce the ship's magnetic signature.


Commissioning

Once a ship's sea trials are successfully completed, plans for the commissioning ceremony will take shape. Depending on the naval traditions of the nation in question, the commissioning ceremony may be an elaborately planned event with guests, the ship's future crew, and other persons of interest in attendance, or the nation may forgo a ceremony and administratively place the ship in commission. At a minimum, on the day on which the ship is to be commissioned the crew will report for duty aboard the ship and the commanding officer will read through the orders given for the ship and its personnel. If the ship's ceremony is a public affair, the Captain may make a speech to the audience, along with other VIPs as the ceremony dictates. Religious ceremonies, such as blessing the ship or the singing of traditional hymns or songs may also occur. Once a ship has been commissioned its final step toward becoming an active unit of the navy it serves is to report to its home port and officially load or accept any remaining equipment (such as munitions).


Ship decommissioning

To decommission a ship is to terminate its career in service in the armed forces of a nation. Unlike wartime ship losses, in which a vessel lost to enemy action is said to be struck, decommissioning confers that the ship has reached the end of its usable life and is being retired from a country's navy. Depending on the naval traditions of the country, a ceremony commemorating the decommissioning of the ship may take place, or the vessel may be removed administratively with minimal fanfare. The term "paid off" is alternatively used in British and Commonwealth contexts, originating in the age-of-sail practice of ending an officer's commission and paying crew wages once the ship completed its voyage. Ship decommissioning usually occurs some years after the ship was commissioned and is intended to serve as a means by which a vessel that has become too old or obsolete can be retired with honor from the country's armed forces. Decommissioning of the vessel may also occur due to treaty agreements (such as the
Washington Naval Treaty The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was a treaty signed during 1922 among the major Allies of World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in E ...

Washington Naval Treaty
) or for safety reasons (such as a ship's
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nuclear reactor
and associated parts reaching the end of their service life), depending on the type of ship being decommissioned. In a limited number of cases a ship may be decommissioned if the vessel in question is judged to be damaged beyond economical repair, as was the case with , or . In rare cases, a navy or its associated country may recommission or leave a ship that is old or obsolete in commission with the regular force rather than decommissioning the vessel in question due to the historical significance or public sentiment for the ship in question. This is the case with the ships and . Vessels preserved in this manner typically do not relinquish their names to other, more modern ships that may be in the design, planning, or construction phase of the parent nation's navy. Prior to its formal decommissioning, the ship in question will begin the process of decommissioning by going through a preliminary step called inactivation or deactivation. During this phase, a ship will report to a naval facility owned by the country to permit the ship's crew to offload, remove, and dismantle the ship's weapons, ammunition, electronics, and other material that is judged to be of further use to the nation. The removed material from a ship usually ends up either rotating to another ship in the class with similar weapons and/or capabilities, or in storage pending a decision on equipment's fate. During this time a ship's crew may be thinned out via transfers and reassignments as the ongoing removal of equipment renders certain personnel (such as missile technicians or gun crews) unable to perform their duties on the ship in question. Certain aspects of a ship's deactivation – such as the removal or deactivation of a ship's nuclear weapons capabilities – may be governed by international treaties, which can result in the presence of foreign officials authorized to inspect the weapon or weapon system to ensure compliance with treaties. Other aspects of a ship's decommissioning, such as the reprocessing of nuclear fuel from a ship utilizing a nuclear reactor or the removal of hazardous materials from a ship, are handled by the government according to the nation's domestic policies. When a ship finishes its inactivation, it is then formally decommissioned, after which the ship is usually towed to a storage facility. In addition to the economic advantages of retiring a ship that has grown maintenance intensive or obsolete, the decommissioning frees up the name used by the ship, allowing vessels currently in the planning or building stages to inherit the name of that warship. Often, but not always, ships that are decommissioned spend the next few years in a
reserve fleet A reserve fleet is a collection of naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intend ...
before their ultimate fate is decided.


Commissioning and decommissioning practices by nation


United States Navy

Commissioning in the early
United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unofficial). , colors = Blue and gold  , colors_label = Colors , march = "Anchors Aweigh" , mascot = , equipment = List of equipment of the United St ...
under sail was attended by no ceremony. An officer designated to command a new ship received orders similar to those issued to Captain
Thomas Truxtun Thomas Truxtun (or Truxton) (February 17, 1755 – May 5, 1822) was an United States, American naval officer after the Revolutionary War, when he served as a privateer, who rose to the rank of commodore (United States), commodore in the late eightee ...

Thomas Truxtun
in 1798: In Truxtun's time, the prospective
commanding officer The commanding officer (CO) or sometimes, if the incumbent is a general officer A general officer is an Officer (armed forces), officer of highest military ranks, high rank in the army, armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, ...

commanding officer
had responsibility for overseeing construction details, outfitting the ship, and recruiting his crew. When a captain determined that his new ship was ready to take to sea, he mustered the crew on deck, read his orders, broke the national ensign and distinctive
commissioning pennant The commissioning pennant (or masthead pennant) is a pennant (also spelled "pendant") flown from the masthead of a warship. The history of flying a commissioning pennant dates back to the days of chivalry with their trail pendants being flown f ...
, and caused the
watch A watch is a portable timepiece A clock is a device used to measure, verify, keep, and indicate time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irr ...
to be set and the first entry to be made in the
log Log most often refers to: * Trunk (botany) In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in thi ...
. Thus, the ship was placed in commission. Commissionings were not public affairs, and unlike christening-and-launching ceremonies, were not recorded by newspapers. The first specific reference to commissioning located in naval records is a letter of November 6, 1863, from
Secretary of the Navy The secretary of the Navy (or SECNAV) is a statutory officer () and the head (chief executive officer) of the United States Department of the Navy, Department of the Navy, a military department (component organization) within the United States D ...
Gideon Welles Gideon Welles (July 1, 1802 – February 11, 1878), nicknamed "Father Neptune", was the United States Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869, a cabinet post he was awarded after supporting Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 United States presidential ele ...

Gideon Welles
to all navy yards and stations. The Secretary directed: "Hereafter the commandants of navy yards and stations will inform the Department, by special report of the date when each vessel preparing for sea service at their respective commands, is placed in commission." Subsequently, various editions of Navy regulations mentioned the act of putting a ship in commission, but details of a commissioning ceremony were not prescribed. Through custom and usage, a fairly standard practice emerged, the essentials of which are outlined in current Navy regulations. Craft assigned to Naval Districts and shore bases for local use, such as harbor tugs and floating drydocks, are not usually placed in commission but are instead given an "in service" status. They do fly the national ensign, but not a commissioning pennant. In modern times, officers and crew members of a new warship are assembled on the
quarterdeck The quarterdeck is a raised deck behind the main mast of a sailing ship. Traditionally it was where the captain commanded his vessel and where the ship's Colours, standards and guidons, colours were kept. This led to its use as the main cere ...
or other suitable area. Formal transfer of the ship to the prospective commanding officer is done by the Chief of Naval Operations or his representative. The
national anthem A national anthem is a patriotic Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of ...
is played, the transferring officer reads the commissioning directive, the ensign is hoisted, and the commissioning pennant broken. The prospective commanding officer reads his orders, assumes command, and the first watch is set. Following, the sponsor is traditionally invited to give the first order to the ship's company: "Man our ship and bring her to life!", whereupon the ship's assigned crew would run on board and man the rails of the ship. In recent years, commissionings have become more public occasions. Most commonly assisted by a Commissioning Support Team (CST), the Prospective Commanding Officer and ship's crew, shipbuilder executives, and senior Navy representatives gather for a formal ceremony placing the ship in active service (in commission). Guests, including the ship's
sponsor Sponsor or sponsorship may refer to a person or organization with some role (especially one of responsibility) regarding another person or organisation: *Sponsor (commercial), supporter of an event, activity, or person *Sponsor (legislative), a pers ...
, are frequently invited to attend, and a prominent individual delivers a commissioning address. On May 3, 1975, more than 20,000 people witnessed the commissioning of at
Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk ( ) is an independent city An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity (such as a province). Historical precursors In the Holy Roman Empire ...
. The carrier's sponsor, daughter of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, was introduced, and US President Gerald R. Ford was the principal speaker. Regardless of the type of ship, the brief but impressive commissioning ceremony completes the cycle from christening and launching to bring the ship into full status as a warship of her nation.


See also

* Shakedown cruise * Taken on Strength * Decommissioning of Russian nuclear-powered vessels * Lists of ship commissionings and decommissionings


References


Citations


Sources

* This article includes text from the public domain ''Ships of the United States Navy: Christening, Launching and Commissioning, Second Edition'', prepared for and published by the Naval History Division of the Department of the Navy,
Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscaped ...
, 1975.


External links


Navy Traditions and Customs
from
Naval Historical Center The Naval History and Heritage Command, formerly the Naval Historical Center, is an Echelon II command responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage located at the historic Washington Navy Yard. ...

Photos from the 1986 commissioning of USS ''Samuel B. Roberts'' (FFG 58)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Ship Commissioning Naval ceremonies