MOSS POINT, Miss. — The U.S. Navy christened and launched its newest oceanographic survey ship, the USNS Maury (T-AGS 66), at VT Halter Marine in Moss Point, Miss., on March 27.
The 353’x58′ ship, the last of the T-AGS 60 class (the first in the class, the Pathfinder, is pictured above), is named for Cmdr. Matthew F. Maury, considered to be the father of oceanography and the first superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The Maury is 24 feet longer than its six sister ships in order to accommodate a 300-square-foot moon pool for easier deployment and retrieval of unmanned underwater vehicles.
Rear Adm. Jonathan White, oceanographer and navigator of the Navy and the principal speaker at the launch and christening, said the T-AGS ships are a reflection of Matthew Maury, who he said, “led a transformation in our Navy.”
Matthew Maury developed wind and tide charts in the 1840s from ship’s logs. White said that Maury realized the importance that understanding the natural environment has for ship operations. That lesson has persisted. “We need to know about the environment to be the best navy in the world,” White said.
The Maury will survey the world’s oceans, collecting ocean data, for Navy operations, continuing the work in the 21st century that Matthew Maury started in the 19th. The ship will be operated by the U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NAVMETOCCOM).
NAVMETOCCOM directs the Navy’s meteorology, oceanography and hydrography programs, operates the Navy’s atomic clock for precise time and tracks the positions of the stars for navigation. The command is comprised of approximately 2,500 officer, enlisted and civilian personnel stationed around the world. Naval Oceanography enables the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the fleet by identifying the risks and opportunities for naval and joint forces posed by the present and future battlespace.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, U.S. merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
VT Halter was awarded an $87 million contract by the Navy in late 2009 to build an enhanced version of the T-AGS 60-class oceanographic survey ship and construction on the Maury began in 2010. Delivery is expected in January 2014.