Unveiling Ships

‘Unveiling’ seem to be coming a term increasingly used in shipbuilding, at least for Canadian government ships (though not for warships for the Royal Canadian Navy – RCN).  For example, see “Seaspan shipyards opens its doors at open house in North Van“.  The term is not one usually associated with significant dates (e.g., keel laying, naming and launching, breaking) in a ship’s life.  But an unveiling does allow for a public ceremony, with concomitant messaging by government and shipbuilder.  Announcement of ship names, and actual naming and launching (sometimes though not in the RCN called christening), are similarly treated.  With a matter as important, and costly, as defence procurement, that is to be expected.


Some refer to the ship unveiled by Seaspan on 1 October as the Sir John Franklin.  Such references may not be quite correct, as the unveiling event has not been reported as a naming ceremony, which is when a ship traditionally takes a name.  Ships can (and recently have, viz Protecteur and Preserver) have their intended names changed before the naming ceremony.  A good way to refer to a ship prior to a naming ceremony is by prefixing the ship’s name with ‘the future.’


The future Sir John Franklin is not the first to be unveiled this year.  The motor vessel Asterix, to be leased and serve as an interim replenishment oiler in the RCN, was unveiled 20 July (Asterix is a conversion from a containership, and as is common civil practice has had a number of names since she was launched).  French language documents for that event referred to the ceremony as an inauguration, a term which would have served nicely in French and English.  However, as there appears to be no hard tradition with the term, unveiling does well enough.  More important than the term is to see more such occasions in the years ahead marking more ships being built for Canada.


Photo: The future Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir John Franklin held visitor’s attention as people tour the Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver, BC, 1 October 2017.  Photo credit: Arlen Redekop, PNG.


RUSI(NS) Staff

Editorial Staff at RUSI (NS). This work is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia.