The two ships were on their way to their new homeport of San Diego, Calif. and will soon be commissioned into the surface fleet. Omaha arrived in San Diego Jan. 19, completing her maiden voyage just a couple of weeks ahead of her commissioning ceremony on Feb. 3. Portland arrived Jan. 22 and will be commissioned into service this spring.
Since 1914, when the USS Jupiter (AC-3) became the first U.S. Navy ship to transit the Panama Canal, the narrow waterway bridging the Atlantic and Pacific oceans has been key in connecting our Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. Jupiter was later converted into the Navy’s first aircraft carrier and renamed USS Langley (CV-1).
Made up of 12 locks, six of which are used by transiting ships, the Panama Canal enables ships to be transported through more than 50 miles of mountainous terrain from one ocean to the other. Successfully completing the evolution requires precise rudder control and safe speeds, and saves ships an 8,000-mile journey around South America.
This was not the first times Navy ships bearing the names Omaha and Portland have made the trip through the canal.
The transit of Omaha and Portland echoed a similar journey made by U.S. Navy light cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) and another, unnamed, battleship, circa 1925-1926.
The heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) transited the Panama Canal in 1935 while carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt from San Diego, Calif., to Charleston,S.C..
Transits through the Panama Canal were more common in the first half of the 20th century. However, as ships designs became larger, and strategy necessitated ships remain in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, the opportunity to navigate the Panama Canal became more rare. Now, a Panama Canal transit is considered to be a highlight among 21st century Sailors.
Portland arrived at its San Diego homeport Jan. 22. The ship departed the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Shipbuilding site in Pascagoula, Miss. on Dec. 14, 2017. Portland is the 11th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship. It will be commissioned in April in its namesake city of Portland, Ore. and is the third ship to bear this name, following USS Portland (CA-33) and USS Portland (LSD-37). Portland was christened in 2016.
Omaha is the sixth Independence-class littoral combat ship. It will be commissioned in February in San Diego and is the fourth Navy vessel to bear the name, following USS Omaha (a screw sloop), USS Omaha (CL-4), and USS Omaha (SSN-692). Omaha was christened in 2015 by sponsor Susan Alice Buffett (daughter of Warren Buffett).