While we experience plenty of fun, well wishes, and celebratory congratulations at our vessel christenings, many of us still linger on the thought of “why do we christen vessels?”

There is not necessarily a straightforward answer, but we are here to walk you through the historical and symbolic significance behind this maritime tradition.

Vessel christening has long been a symbol or a superstition of bringing good luck to the team members or crew aboard the vessel. This has been one of the many traditions passed down from generation to generation in the maritime industry, with the main message of the christening being to protect the ship and its crew from harm and to ensure safe voyages. Some other traditions have come to be similar to christening, such as flying the vessel’s home country’s flag, some nautical symbols, and bell strikes.

Another maritime tradition is the naming of vessels, which is also part of the vessel christening. Throughout the history of the maritime industry, it has been custom to give vessels names that hold significance. It has long been believed that a ship with a proper, meaningful name is more likely to be respected and maintained by its crew.

This is a tradition that Associated Terminals and Turn Services uphold. For instance, the last crane christened by Associated Terminals was named the T. May, which was named after a very beloved and dedicated former employee of the company, as many of our cranes are. At Turn Services, our crew boats are named after streets throughout New Orleans.

In the realm of shipbuilding traditions, the christening ceremony stands as a pivotal moment for the vessel to be officially introduced to the water. It is a celebratory event that carries profound significance, inaugurating the successful completion of the construction phase and the beginning of its’ active service.

A widely recognized element of ship christening is the customary breaking of a bottle containing champagne or a similar beverage against the ship’s hull. This act carries a deep level of symbolism, as it bestows good fortune upon the vessel and readiness for the maiden voyage, and further contributes to the belief of blessing a boat for the crew to have a prosperous journey.

Across industries and cultures, the tradition of christening boats still varies. For instance, some believe it is automatic bad luck if you rename a ship after its christening. And in Japan, they pour Sake over the bow of the ship instead of breaking a bottle of champagne.

So, the next time you raise a glass to christen a vessel, know that you are part of an age-old maritime saga, a tale of superstition and symbolism, and a legacy of good fortune that sails on with every vessel that meets the water. Bon voyage!

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