All About Ship Naming and Launching Ceremonies: How Are Ships Named?

There is a lot of significance of one’s name as it encompasses what and who each of us is. This is why, we name everything we come in contact with.

In the marine industry naming ships play a very vital role. Between military vessels, cargo liners, and other private-owned ship, names not only serve as an indication of identity but they can also help with determining what is the functionality of the vessel due to ship naming is no simple task.

William and Kate join Sir David Attenborough for ship naming ceremony - ITV  News
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How Are Ships Named?

Although there is no formal procedure or nomenclature for ship naming, usually after the launching of the vessel and a champagne bottle is smashed on the bow by the vessel’s godmother, this is a form of an offering made to the gods of the sea in return to receive favorable treatment of the vessel while plowing the waters. At the christening ceremony, the vessel’s name is revealed to the invited guests by removing the garlands and banners.

For civilian vessels, the name of the ship was decided by the owner so in the old times, most of the ships were named after goddesses and other mythical figures but soon these practices changed and owners started to name their ships after the females that are important in their life. Some owners keep a very playful name, so that there a positive vibe and the crew mates are inspired to work as well as to keep a good impression on the people.

Ship naming and launching
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While for the military ships, the naming was freeform, but now there is a strict conventional procedure to select a name for a new naval vessel. Common prefixes used are MV (for Motor Vessel), MS (for Motor Ship), MT (Motor Tanker), SY (for Sailing Yacht), or MY (for Motor Yacht). In the US Navy, “USS” stands for United States Ship, which indicates a warship while “USNS” is United States Navy Ship, which is used for auxiliary vessels. In the UK, “HRM” stands for addressing “Her/His Royal Majesty’s” ship. Some of the other naming conventions involved honoring fallen soldiers and other ships lost in wartime.

In the present, IMO regulations state that it is required that the name of the vessel is clearly printed on both the port side and starboard bow and the superstructure. Also, the ship name along with her IMO number and her homeport is printed on the stern with lettering which has to be at least four inches in height.

Christening Ships, Champagne, and Superstition
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Significance of Ship Naming

Traditionally, the ship’s naming and launching ceremony had a very great significance as it was a good blessing in order to bring good fortune and safety to the new ship, its crew, and passengers.

The tradition of ship naming ceremony is being practiced for thousands of years. For instance, Babylonian celebrating ship launching in the 3rd millennium BC, and Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians were mainly done to call on their gods to protect ships before starting voyages.

Ships launching of the Vikings were done by the spilling of blood. Whereas in the medieval age, red wine was offered as a substitute for the earlier blood sacrifice to mark the opening ceremony of the vessel.

Names of ancient Greek ships - Ancient World Magazine
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Some of these traditions still are continued to this day while some are similar to them with the only exception of women christening ships which are done nowadays. In the olden days, the christening was mainly performed by either religious men or officials.

According to urban legends, every vessel’s name is recorded in the Ledger of the Deep, which is personal log book of Poseidon who is the Greek god of the sea. Hence there was a lot of significance given to the naming of the ship and the ship ceremonies. So, to stay on Poseidon’s good side, one must always obliterate every single mention of the boat’s name. This was done to ensure the safety of the travels and the flourishing business bought by these travelers.

Interesting Facts About Ship Naming

Here are some interesting fun facts about ship naming:

  1. It is considered to be a bad omen to change the name of the ship as it upsets Poseidon, the greek god of the sea.
  2. The Canadian Government Merchant Marine names all its ships with the adjective Canadian followed by a noun.
  3. All the ships owned by the Coos Bay Lumber Company have had names of persons of the surname Smith.
  4. The Robert Dollar Company had all of their steamships named for members of the Dollar family except the John Ena.
  5. The East Asiatic Company favored naming their ships as names of countries.
  6. W. R. Grace & Co. used spanish names of women saints with two exceptions of Colusa and Bark Belfast.
  7. In the Mexican States Steamship Line, all vessels are named for states of Mexico.
  8. All steamers belonging to the Oceanic Steamship Company have borne the names of counties of California. Although all these names end in “A” the coincidence is accidental.
  9. Pacific Steamship Company has the prefix admiral in front of each name of the ship hence it is also called as the Admiral Line.
  10. The Societe Generale de Transports Maritimes a Vapeur named the vessels after the names of mountain or islands.
  11. For several years cruising vessels of the US Coast Guard before know as Revenue Cutter Service have been given names of Indian origin.
  12. Tenders of the Lighthouse Services ships are given botanical names derived from the flora of the districts in which they are to be assigned.
  13. In the United States Navy Destroyers are named after distinguished naval officers.
  14. Steamers of the line,Union Steamship Company of British Columbia only used Indian names beginning with “C”, usually names of old Indian settlements or lakes and streams in the province of British Columbia.
  15. Union Oil Company of California’s ships are named after oil fields of California.
Ship naming and launching |
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From this, we can conclude that naming of a ship is of great significance as it not only describes the purpose of the vessel but also shows the gratitude shown to the loved ones and the fallen heros after which the ship has been named. Whereas, for the naming ceremony shows how important are our traditions and how we do it for a blessing for well being of the crew members, passengers and the development of the business.

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