Ship naming ceremony – a memorable event for guests attending

2 December 2016

Last week, I had the honour of attending a traditional naming ceremony for Höegh Trotter, the sixth New Horizon class vessel, my company has built at Xiamen Shipbuilding Industries in China. Many people outside the shipping industry wonder what such a ceremony is all about, therefore I thought of shedding some light on this old custom.

A ship naming ceremony is held at the shipyard when a new vessel is ready to sail out after undergoing the required sea trials. On the day of the ceremony, the owner arrives at the shipyard with family members, friends, and business partners to celebrate and . provide the ship hull with its identity.


Traditionally, the ship naming ceremony was held to bring good fortune and safety to the new ship, its crew, and passengers. The tradition of having a naming ceremony dates back thousands of years. There is evidence of Babylonians celebrating ship launches in the 3rd millennium BC, and Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians calling on their Gods to protect ships before starting voyages.  During the Viking age, between 8th and 11th century AD, the Vikings marked the event by the spilling of blood.  In the medieval age, wine was offered as a substitute for the earlier blood sacrifice, to mark the opening ceremony of a ship. The traditions continue to be similar today with the only exception that a woman is christening ships nowadays. Earlier, the ceremony was mainly performed by religious men or officials.

Typical activities

On the day of the ship naming, the new vessel is tastefully decorated with flags and long rolls of ribbons. Thereafter, a lady sponsor is asked to cut the ribbon, and smash a bottle of champagne against the ship’s bow. As the champagne bottle collides with the bow of the ship, the drums are hit hard and a band of musicians start playing music. 

Xiamen ceremony

Höegh Autoliners, in its almost 90-year history, has always stuck to this traditional ceremony. No wonder therefore, that the event I attended was grand and memorable.

On the day of the naming, the Lady Sponsor and all guests invited by Höegh Autoliners and the Shipyard were greeted at the beautifully decorated vessel by the welcoming committee. Here we were provided with orchid decorations, while a band played music. Next, there were speeches wishing good luck and thanking both Höegh Autoliners and Shipyard representatives.

Traditional gifts were presented to the Shipyard management, workers, the Captain and the Lady Sponsor. The Shipyard also invited a group of acrobats to perform the traditional dragon dance.

The culmination was, of course, the naming moment when the Lady Sponsor smashed the bottle of champagne against the ship’s bow. At this magic moment, the colourful fireworks burst, and the band played ceremonial music. 

After a group photo, all guests were invited on board the shiny, bright vessel to get a view of the modern and comfortable crew facilities, and ultra-modern bridge. 

It was truly an event I will cherish in my memories for a long time. 

Thank you!

* Source of historic facts (

Teresa Lehovd is the Head of Market Intelligence at Höegh Autoliners. She holds over 30 years of experience in the RoRo shipping industry, whereof 20 years in various market research positions where she is specialised in the research of global automotive and heavy equipment industries. Teresa is also a guest lecturer at the Norwegian School of Management in the area of Competitive Intelligence and Shipping, and frequent speaker at various industry conferences.

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