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Navy to christen USNS Puerto Rico on Saturday morning

The USNS Puerto Rico will be the U.S. Navy's 11th expeditionary fast transport ship, and first active ship to honor Puerto Rico.

By Stephen Carlson
Navy to christen USNS Puerto Rico on Saturday morning
The expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Puerto Rico will be commissioned Saturday in Alabama. Pictured is the USNS Spearhead, the first of the Navy's EPF vessels. Photo courtesy of the Military Sealift Command

Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy will christen its latest Expeditionary Fast Transport ship the USNS Puerto Rico during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony on Saturday.

The ceremony will take place at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., with Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor serving as the ship's sponsor. Sotomayor will break a bottle of sparkling wine over the ship's bow, following maritime tradition.

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"This ship honors the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the contributions Puerto Ricans have made to our nation and Navy and Marine Corps team," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said.

"USNS Puerto Rico will provide our commanders high-speed sealift mobility and agility and I am thankful for this ship, her crew, and our industrial force teammates whose service makes this great ship possible," Spencer said.

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The future USNS Puerto Rico will be the first active ship in naval service to be named after the island territory. An Alaska-class cruiser named Puerto Rico was authorized in 1940, but was cancelled in 1943 alongside two other cruisers in the class under construction.

The EPF is a catamaran based off a commercial design with a aluminum shallow-draft hull. It is built for intra-theater personnel and cargo transport for high-speed sealift operations.

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The EPF-class ships are designed to carry 600 tons of cargo and 312 troops plus Military Sealift Command attachments over 1,300 miles at an cruising speed of 40 miles per hour. The ship is capable of operating in shallow ports and waterways and is compatible with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and can perform on/off-loading of heavy armored vehicles like the M!A2 Abrams main battle tank.

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The EPF has a flight deck for helicopters and an off-load ramp that will allow vehicles to drive off the ship quickly following landing.

EPF's has a draft of under 15 ft. making it highly capable of operating in coastal areas and shallow or damaged ports and providing military logistics and disaster relief.

It carries a civilian crew under Navy command like other USNS ships, but often has military personnel attached. Nine ships in the class are currently operational, with several more in various stages of construction or pending delivery.

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