PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - With much fanfare, a ship built at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula was officially named and delivered to the Egyptian Navy Tuesday morning. The fast missile craft is the first of four being built for that middle eastern country. It's named after the former commander in chief of the Egyptian navy, Soliman Ezzat.
The ship will help stabilize Egypt's borders during a time of transition in that country, according to Rear Admiral Mohamed Abd El Aziz of the Egyptian Navy.
"We have illegal immigration, we have smuggling of arms possibly, of commodities, and we need to be alert all the time," Aziz said. "So more ships we need, more efforts that we can, and more assets that we can allocate to get the job done."
Despite the political changes taking place in Egypt after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, Halter is set to build three more ships.
"It's a moot point for the shipyard. We build ships," said Program Manager Eric Richards. "We have a firm contract with the U.S. Navy to deliver these vessels, and we're quite certain that they will be completed and certainly go on and do their mission."
The delivery of this vessel to the Egyptian Navy signifies a stabilizing force in that volatile part of the world, but it also means something even more important at VT Halter Marine: the survival of the shipyard after being pummeled by Hurricane Katrina.
"When we first came here, you can hardly see anything after Katrina. Of course, it was devastating catastrophe," Admiral Aziz recalled. "But now with those ships, it has brought vitality to the area and this is another sign of contribution between the two countries, so it's a win win situation."
The total contract amount to build the four ships is $800 million. The last vessel is scheduled to be delivered to the Egyptian navy by end of 2013. The fast missile crafts are 208 feet long and carry a crew of 39.