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USNS Apalachicola on its way to completion

The USNS Apalachicola, its name announced to great fanfare two years
ago at the Independence Eve celebration, is expected to be launched this
November, and be in service by this time next year.

The EPF 13, newest of the Navy’s Expeditionary Fast
Transport ships, is now about three-quarters complete as it is being built in
Mobile, Alabama by Austal USA., at a total cost, including recent autonomous
enhancements, of $275 million.

The late Mayor Kevin Begos traveled January 21 with his
mother, Jane Richardson, a Navy veteran, to the keel-laying ceremony in Mobile,
the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction.

In earlier times it was the “laying down” of the
central or main timber making up the backbone of a vessel. Today, fabrication
of the ship may begin months before and some of the ship’s bottom may actually
be joined. The ceremony, also referred to as the keel authentication,
symbolically recognizes the joining of modular components and the ceremonial
beginning of a ship.

“The engineers and welders of this amazing American-made
ship are doing great work!” he wrote at the time. “She will be the second ship
in naval service named after Apalachicola; the first was a tugboat.”

In what may strike some as contradictory, or perhaps
unifying, given the longstanding Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint “water wars”
with Georgia, the ship’s sponsor is former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Her initials were welded into the keel plate as part of the

Former Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer made the
announcement personally at Apalachicola’s Independence Eve celebration in 2019.

The Secretary of the Navy continues to exercise the prerogative
for assigning names to the Navy’s ships, a responsibility dating back to March
3, 1819, when an act of Congress formally placed that responsibility into his
or her hands.

Congress also specified at that time “the following rule, to
wit: those of the first class shall be called after the States of this Union;
those of the second class after the rivers; and those of the third class after
the principal cities and towns; taking care that no two vessels of the navy
shall bear the same name.”

The last-cited provision remains in the United States Code

On June 10, Austal USA announced that it had been awarded a
$44 million contract to develop autonomous capability in the EPF 13, a contract
modification for the design, procurement, production implementation and
demonstration of autonomous capability on the ship.

The USNS Apalachicola features a 338-foot long aluminum,
catamaran style twin hull. It will be powered by four 11,000-horsepower diesel
engines that enable a top speed of 43 knots, or close to 50 mph.

The Spearhead-class EPF features a more than
2,100-square-yard cargo deck, medium-lift helicopter deck and seating for 300-plus
embarked troops; providing a fast, high-payload transport capability to
combatant commanders around the world.

After the planned launch for the EPF 13 in November, it is expected
to be delivered by July 2022.

Once commissioned, the USNS Apalachicola will be operated by
the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, part of a wide range of missions that
range from maritime security operations to humanitarian aid and disaster

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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