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Submarine commissioning relocated due to insufficient channel depth

PASCAGOULA — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the commissioning for the submarine USS Mississippi will be in Pascagoula rather than Gulfport.

“Due to concerns about insufficient channel depths in Gulfport … the new commissioning site for USS Mississippi is Pascagoula with a scheduled date of June 2,” Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, said in a statement.

The channel is deeper in Pascagoula.

Port of Pascagoula director Mark McAndrews said that it has not yet been determined at which terminal in the harbor the ceremonies will take place. But, he said, with the harbor at 38 feet deep, “the vessel could come in tomorrow.”

Construction of the Mississippi began in February 2007. The new attack submarine was christened in Connecticut in December.

“I am pleased that we will conduct this once in a ship’s lifetime ceremony in the submarine’s namesake state of Mississippi and greatly appreciate all the support we’ve received from the entire Gulf Coast area to determine an appropriate site for the commissioning,” Mabus said.

General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and Newport News Shipbuilding, which is a Virginia-based division of Huntington Ingalls, are building the new Virginia-class subs for the Navy. The vessels are christened at events their builders control.

The commissioning is a separate ceremony, which the Navy controls, and the decision about where to have the ceremony was up to Mabus.

The Mississippi is the latest in the Virginia class of submarines, which are built in partnership between Groton-based Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding at a cost of about $2.6 billion each. They carry torpedoes as well as Tomahawk missiles and have features including a torpedo room that can be refigured to hold Navy SEALs.

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss, who represents south Mississippi in Congress, said: “I appreciate all the hard work community leaders from both Pascagoula and Gulfport did to bring the commissioning to Mississippi. From the veterans who served and worked to make this happen, to the ship builders who equip our nation’s war fighters; this is a proud day for Mississippi.”

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