Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, left, commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, and Leo Herrera-Lim, Philippine Consul General in Los Angeles, sign documents transferring ownership of R/V Melville to the Philippine Navy. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Travis Litke)

SAN DIEGO - The U. S. Navy transferred ownership of Research Vessel (R/V) Melville to the Philippine Navy, during a ceremony April 27 at Naval Base San Diego.

The ship was transferred under the U.S. Department of Defense's excess defense articles program to help augment the Republic of the Philippines oceanographic research and study capabilities.

Melville, named for George Melville, an explorer and rear admiral in the United States Navy, was launched from La Jolla in 1968. Since then, it has served the Office of Naval Research, been operated by Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and also played a role in the 1976 film King Kong. Melville will be received as the Philippine Navy's first dedicated research vessel.

"The Philippines is and will remain a vital strategic ally in the region for the foreseeable future, and I am proud to play a part in that relationship," said Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet. "Today, we not only transfer a platform that will enhance the Philippines' environmental research and law enforcement capabilities but will also contribute to the security and stability of the region."

With the signing of handover paperwork between Tyson and the Honorable Leo Herrera-Lim, Consul General of the Philippines in Los Angeles, the vessel transferred ownership to the Philippine Navy.

"The transfer of the vessel Melville to the Philippines today signifies the shared commitment of the Philippines in terms of furthering scientific research in our part of the world but also our shared values of advancing security of our common people in terms of the future ahead of us," said Herrera-Lim.

The ship's new sponsor, Mrs. Fidelis Herrera-Lim, wife of the Honorable Leo Herrera-Lim, smashed a bottle of wine against the hull, officially christening the vessel BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR 702), named after Dr. Gregorio Velasquez, a renowned leader in the Philippine scientific community.

Once christened, official orders were read, the commissioning pennant was hoisted, watches were set, and the vessel was officially placed in commission.