02/22/2017 : Ambassador Yamate Remark – 38’ Metal Shark Boat to Malagasy Navy



Thank you attending this important event.

I am so very honored to be able to represent the United States as together with President Rajaonarimampianina, we observe long standing traditions of Navies around the world in commissioning a naval vessel and celebrating her entry into active service.  These ceremonies represent a new beginning not just for the boat herself, but for the crew which will serve on her, for the military leaders who will be entrusted to command her, and for the nation which she will serve.

These traditions we observe today are centuries old.  They include special symbols, such as the commissioning pennant.  When the pennant is “broken at the masthead”, — flown from highest point of the ship — the ship officially becomes a Navy command in its own right and joins the fleet.  This tradition stems from the story of British Admiral Robert Blake, who flew a whip from the masthead symbolize his determination to “whip” the Dutch Navy during in the mid-17th century.  In commemoration of Blake’s victory, this long thin flag has become a staple on naval ships everywhere.

Another Navy tradition we recognize today is the unique role played by the first crew to serve on board a ship.  This crew will now be known as her “plank owners,” a term that dates back to the days of wooden sailing ships.  Traditionally, when a ship was decommissioned and dismantled, the “plank owners” could request one of the wooden boards (planks) from the main deck as a souvenir.   Today this is a figurative meaning, especially for a Metal Boat.  But the idea that this first crew will set the course and the tone that the ship will follow for years to come still holds true.  And the course for this vessel will be an important one, as it will serve as a classroom for generations of Malagasy Naval Officers and Sailors.

As Madagascar looks past her shores to protect her waters, vessels like this will aid in making these surrounding seas more safe and secure.  This vessel will give the leaders of the Malagasy Government and Military a versatile tool to counter illegal fishing, to stop trafficking of rosewood and other valuable resouces, and to provide a robust search and rescue capability. The combination of this vessel and U.S.-Malagasy efforts to upgrade the Maritime Operations Center in Diego Suarez, as well as the Malagasy Indian Ocean Regional Information Fusion Center, will boost regional maritime security significantly.

Maritime security is an area in which Malagasy and U.S. cooperation is very strong.  In 2016, almost 50 U.S.-Malagasy security cooperation events took place, including the first deployment of the Trozona to the “Cutlass Express” exercise.  I would like to extend my congratulations to the Malagasy Navy on the recent completion of the second annual deployment of the Trozona to “Cutlass Express” earlier this month.  The addition of the Metal Shark Boat to the Malagasy Navy will allow an expanded capacity to participate in exercises and other events, deepening ties between Madagascar, its regional allies, and the U.S.

In closing I want to share a quote from U.S. President George Washington on the creation of the then-young U.S. Navy: “It follows then, as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”  I hope that the crew of this ship enjoys many honorable and glorious missions over the years.

I want to wish the Captain and the Crew of the Metal Shark Boat good luck on their mission and, as sailors have wished for their friends for hundreds of years, may you always find “Fair winds and following seas.”