BATH — Bath Iron Works hosted a christening ceremony Saturday for the second of three Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers it is building, the DDG 1001 Michael Monsoor.
At least 1,500 people attended the event, including all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation and family members of the ship’s namesake, a Navy SEAL who was killed on Sept. 29, 2006, in Iraq when he jumped on an enemy grenade to absorb the blast. Petty Officer 2nd Class Monsoor’s act of herosim saved the lives of three fellow SEALs and eight Iraqi Army soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008.
“He lived these words from the Gospel of John: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,’” Republican Sen. Susan Collins told the crowd in a moving tribute to Monsoor.
At the ceremony, the ship was christened by Monsoor’s mother, Sally Monsoor.
“May God bless this ship, and all who sail within her,” she said before smashing a bottle against the ship, the Associated Press reported.
Speakers at the ceremony also praised the workers at General Dynamics’ BIW, who have put in thousands of hours building the three Zumwalt-class destroyers. The first ship, the USS Zumwalt, was officially handed over to the Navy in May. It is named after the late Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, who earned a Bronze Star in World War II, commanded small boats that patrolled the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, and served as Chief of Naval Operations.
The Zumwalt-class ships consist of an unusual design that minimizes their radar signature, along with new guns to boost the Navy’s land attack capability and a hull designed for sustained operations close to shore. They are highly automated and require crews nearly half the size of other existing destroyers.
At Saturday’s ceremony, 2nd District Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin described the future USS Michael Monsoor as an “extraordinary machine of peace and security.”
“Today, under the canopy of this powerful freedom machine, we honor the legacy of Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor,” he said.
The Zumwalt-class ships are the largest and most technologically sophisticated destroyers ever built for the Navy. Each displaces over 15,000 tons, is more than 600 feet long and more than 80 feet wide.
They are also the most expensive Navy ships ever built. The Navy’s latest budget submission suggests the cost of the first ship will be at least $4.5 billion.
BIW President Fred Harris said lessons learned from building the first Zumwalt have shaved thousands of hours off the time it is taking to complete the second ship.
“Overall, the Michael Monsoor will take the shipyard 20 percent less time to build than the Zumwalt,” Harris said. The third and final Zumwalt-class destroyer is already under construction, he added. “I can say without hesitation that BIW’s workforce is the most skilled in the nation.”
Following the 10 a.m. christening ceremony, the ship was scheduled to begin its transition from BIW’s land-level transfer facility to the dry dock. On Monday, the dry dock will move into the middle of the Kennebec River and be ballasted, allowing the ship to float off, according to BIW.
Tugboats will then move the ship alongside the transfer facility on the west side of the Kennebec.
Not everyone who traveled to BIW on Saturday was there to celebrate the christening of a new Navy destroyer. A group of about 30 protesters held a rally just outside the shipyard to draw attention to concerns such as the human and financial costs of wars, and the U.S. military’s contributions to pollution and global warming.
Twelve protesters were arrested after they blocked Washington Street in front of the shipyard’s south gate, Bath police said. The protesters were from Maine Veterans for Peace and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, police said.
The dozen – all from Maine except for one man from Woodstock, New York – sat down in the road and refused to move, at which point they were arrested and charged with obstructing a public way. Police said the protesters were cooperative and were released on their personal recognizance after booking, with a court date of Aug. 2.
Peter Morgan of Veterans for Peace said he thinks the money spent on building Zumwalt-class destroyers could be put to better use, such as by helping those in need and repairing the country’s aging infrastructure.
“I’m not sure how the destroyer addresses terrorism, exactly,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.