PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A ship built on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is now set to hit the seas, and its primary mission is to gather research that will help keep servicemen and women around the world safe.
Stretching 353 feet in length and standing 58 feet high, The USNS Maury was handed over to the Navy in a ceremony in Pascagoula on Tuesday. The celebration was attended by Sen. Roger Wicker and Gov. Phil Bryant. The ship, built by VT Halter Marine, is designed to explore the deepest depths of the ocean.
"Over 90 percent of the bottom of the ocean has not been surveyed yet, and this state of the art vessel here will be able to make a big leap toward getting more of that done," said Wicker
The Maury is the sixth research vessel VT Halter has constructed. This one has a unique feature right in the middle; a moon pool.
"It has a 24-foot long moon pool in it so that there's a pool in the center of the ship for launching and recovering remotely operated vehicles," said VT Halter CEO Jack Prendergast.
The ship will be manned by merchant marines. The research gathered will then be used by the Navy. Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet says that data is critical.
"My sailors around the world take that information, and they use it and deliver it to Navy commanders and make decisions every day all around the world to stay ahead of our threats like in Iran, North Korea and China," said Gallaudet.
Five of these research vessels are in use right now by the Navy. Wicker said he anticipates a need to build more military ships, possibly meaning more business for ship makers in South Mississippi.
"Our entire Navy fleet is not yet at the requirement that it needs to be of over 300 ships. We're not there yet, and we're doing our part with the latest National Defense Authorization Act to build that up," said Wicker.
The USNS Maury is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, who's considered the founder of the science of oceanography and the father of world meteorology.