PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - "We are America's Shipyard." Ingalls Shipbuilding delivered that message at keel laying ceremony for a United States Coast Guard security cutter on Friday. Ingalls officials took the opportunity to let the world know the Pascagoula shipyard is ready go up against any competition.
Charlene Benoit is proud a Coast Guard cutter will carry the legacy of her great great uncle, Joshua James. Back in the 1800s, James braved treacherous New England seas in a row boat to save more than 600 lives during a nearly 60 year career in the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
"The thought that you're going out into that storm as everyone else is trying to run away from it is pretty remarkable," said Benoit, the ship's sponsor.
During the ceremony, Ingalls Shipbuilding President Irwin Edenzon said, "We're going to focus on cost and schedule and show everybody we are America's shipyard."
Coast Guard Cutter James is the fifth in an agreement to build eight cutters in Pascagoula. Company leaders told Coast Guard officials that Ingalls is ready to build even more cutters.
"Each ship has been more cost effective than the previous ship. We think we've got the price of the ship to where it's very competitive," Edenzon said. "The Coast Guard has a requirement for eight. I think if we can make a good enough offer, we might be able to interest them in four more."
Coast Guard officials said the fact that each new Ingalls-built cutter has been better and cheaper than the last hasn't gone unnoticed, especially as the Coast Guard is trying to replace its aging fleet.
"The 378-foot cutter is about 50 years old. So it's costing us a lot to maintain them and keep them out in the fleet," said David Blackburn with the Coast Guard. "It would be better to produce a new ship with more capabilities than the old ships have. We would still save money doing it that way."
Ingalls officials said just as Joshua James did before them, today's Coast Guard men and women rush out in dangerous conditions to help those in need.
"I think he may be an example of most of our young military men and women who are in the military now who are totally selfless and put themselves on the line every day for us. That is a life saving tradition that goes on in all forces."
"Whenever you see boats coming in because the clouds are coming and the storms are coming," said Edenzon. "Everybody is heading back in to shore, you see these ships going the other direction going out to help people in need of help. These are the kinds of ships that give them the flexibility to be able to do all those different kinds of missions."
Joshua James' family said he continued doing rescue missions when he was well into his 70s. Ingalls officials say the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James is expected to be delivered in the summer of 2015.