Ship construction is a process that involves several phases commencing from the customer’s technical specifications, engineering designs, procurement of materials, cutting of materials and assembly of panels, sections, blocks into the hull, launching/floatation, outfitting, painting, sea trials, commissioning, and delivery.


First, there’s the steel-cutting ceremony, followed by the keel-laying (when coins are placed on the vessel for good luck), the float-out (when the ship is placed in the water for the first time and the construction of its interior begins), and eventually the christening of the ship (often called the launching or naming ceremony).


Laying the keel or laying down is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. It is often marked with a ceremony attended by dignitaries from the shipbuilding company and the ultimate owners of the ship.

Keel laying is one of the four specially celebrated events in the life of a ship; the others are floatation/launching, commissioning, and decommissioning.

Modern ships are most commonly built in a series of pre-fabricated, complete hull sections rather than around a single keel. The event recognized as the keel laying is the first joining of modular components, or the lowering of the first module into place in the building dock. It is now often called “keel authentication”, and is the ceremonial beginning of the ship’s life, although some modules may have been started months before that stage of construction.


Traditionally, ship launching in the water is done using four main methods. These methods are:

  • Gravitational type launching
  • Floating-out type launching
  • Mechanical Type launching
  • Airbag/Inflated cylindrical rubbers launching

Ceremonial ship launching involves the performance of ceremonies associated with the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a nautical tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years, to accompany the physical process with ceremonies that have been observed as a public celebration and a solemn blessing, usually but not always, in association with the launch itself.

A launching ceremony is a formal custom that celebrates a boat being transferred from land to water for the first time. It is an important naval tradition that’s both a public celebration and a way of blessing the ship (and its crew) in an attempt to bring it good fortune on its voyages.

Ship launching imposes stresses on the ship not met during normal operation and, in addition to the size and weight of the vessel, represents a considerable engineering challenge as well as a public spectacle. The process also involves many traditions intended to invite good luck, such as christening by breaking a sacrificial bottle of champagne over the bow as the ship is named aloud and launched.

Floatation is done for several reasons and because it is the first time the constructed ship comes in contact with water, the shipbuilders would like to confirm several issues;

  • To confirm the water-tight integrity of the welded hull, the hull should not be painted in order to see wet areas and leakages
  • To check whether the ship is floating upright, correct if necessary
  • Christening the ship, officially naming the ship
  • Prayers for blessing the ship and the life of the crew at sea

Successful floatation paves way for hull painting, outfitting, and automation.


Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to placing a ship on active duty. The ceremonies involved are often rooted in centuries-old naval tradition.

Ship naming and launching endow a ship hull with her identity, but many milestones remain before she is completed and considered ready to be designated a commissioned ship. The preparation and readiness time between christening-launching and commissioning may be more than six months depending on the type and size of the vessel under construction.


To decommission a ship is to terminate its career in service. Decommissioning confers that the ship has reached the end of its usable life and is being retired from service. Depending on the naval traditions of the country, a ceremony commemorating the decommissioning of the ship may take place, or the vessel may be removed administratively with minimal fanfare. The term “paid off” is alternatively used.

Ship decommissioning usually occurs some years after the ship was commissioned and is intended to serve as a means by which a vessel that has become too old or obsolete can be retired with honor from the service. Decommissioning of the vessel may also occur due to treaty agreements or for safety reasons, depending on the type of ship being decommissioned. In a limited number of cases, a ship may be decommissioned if the vessel in question is judged to be damaged beyond economical repair.

Prior to its formal decommissioning, the ship in question will begin the process of decommissioning by going through a preliminary step called inactivation or deactivation. During this phase, a ship will report to a naval facility owned by the country to permit the ship’s crew to offload, remove, and dismantle the ship’s weapons, ammunition, electronics, and other material that is judged to be of further use to the nation. The removed material from a ship usually ends up either rotating to another ship in the class with similar weapons and/or capabilities or in storage pending a decision on the equipment’s fate. During this time a ship’s crew may be thinned out via transfers and reassignments as the ongoing removal of equipment renders certain personnel unable to perform their duties on the ship in question. When a ship finishes its inactivation, it is then formally decommissioned, after which the ship is usually towed to a storage facility.

In addition to the economic advantages of retiring a ship that has grown maintenance intensive or obsolete, decommissioning frees up the name used by the ship, allowing vessels currently in the planning or building stages to inherit the name of that ship.


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