Gulf Island Shipyard has laid the keel for the future USNS Cherokee Nation (T-ATS 7) ship at the Houma Terrebonne Civic Center in Houma, Louisiana, US.

T-ATS 7 is the second ship of the US Navy’s Navajo-class of towing, salvage, and rescue vessels.

The ship was christened in June 2019 in honour of Cherokee Nation.

Programme Executive Office Ships, support ships, boats and craft programme manager Mike Kosar said: “We are honoured to have so many representatives of the Cherokee Nation in attendance to celebrate this early milestone.

“The ship is critical to the operations of our fleet and will soon sail with the pride and determination of the Cherokee people, which it is named to honour.”

There are currently three T-ATF 166-class and two T-ARS 50-class ships with the US Military Sealift Command conduct patrol and recuse operations in the sea. Most of these ships are expected to complete their service lives by the end of this year.

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The 263ft-long and 59ft-wide Navajo-class ships have 6,000ft² of deck space and are designed to carry around 2,000t of load.

Featuring ocean-going tug, salvage, and rescue capabilities, the US Navy will deploy the ships to support fleet operations, such as towing the service’s ships.

In November 2019, the keel for the lead ship of the Navajo class, the future USNS Navajo (T-ATS 6), was laid at the same shipyard.

The Gulf Island Shipyard is also responsible for the detailed design and construction of the future USNS Saginaw Ojibwe Anishinabek (T-ATS 8).

In July 2019, Gulf Island Shipyard awarded a contract for the delivery of deck machinery to MacGregor for the construction of T-ATS.