The high-speed sightseeing cruiser “SEA SPICA” was launched in summer of 2020!
“SEA SPICA” is a high-speed sightseeing cruiser, and the “West Japan Railway Group” and “Setonaikai Kisen Group” have developed this special ship together.
This is the fifth and final report on the end of the shipbuilding process.
Finally, the ship will leave the building and float on the sea – at the launching ceremony!
Our reporters for today’s report are 2 members of STU 48, which is the official ambassador of “SEA SPICA,” Minami Ishida and Kouko Tanaka.
These 2 attend the launching ceremony and will have an especially important role in it…
Let’s have a look.
The “SEA SPICA” finally made it to the launching ceremony.
In the middle of the preparation for the launching ceremony, we arrived at the shipbuilding yard of “Setouchi Craft Co., Ltd.”
The “SEA SPICA,” whose shipbuilding process we have closely followed, is outside of the yard, placed on a carriage on the slope facing the Onomichi Channel.
Shortly, a Shinto priest who will oversee today’s Shinto ritual arrives from Mukaishimahigashi Hachimangu Shrine, and the ceremony begins.
The 2 members of STU48 are looking on the altar with a gaze of earnest intensity.
At first, the priest offers purifying rituals with a prayer for safe sailing on “SEA SPICA.”
After that, a representative of the ship’s owners holds the “naming ceremony.”
Now, the ship is officially called “SEA SPICA.”
Then, the next ritual is the offering of branches from a sacred tree.
Ms. Ishida, one of the STU48 members goes to the front, and offers a branch at the altar with two bows, two claps, and a third bow (a standard form of worshipfor Shinto deities).
Mr. Yasuyuki Kawanishi from ICHIBANSEN/nextstations Co., Ltd. who was in charge of design of “SEA SPICA” also offers a branch.
Finally, the ship will enter the sea!
The big event featuring STU48, “the ritual of cutting the supporting rope.”
The climax of the launching ceremony is “cutting the supporting rope,” a ritual which releases the ship into the sea.
And Ms. Ishida and Ms. Tanaka from STU48 will play this important role, cutting the rope!
Do you know that traditionally this ritual is considered best to be done by women?
Also, the word “ship” is a feminine noun, so ships are called “she.”
After smiling for a commemorative photo, they pick up a silver hatchet from the altar to cut the rope.
This can be said to be the most important rituals among the ceremony, but Ms. Ishida and Ms. Tanaka are completely calm, as they have often experienced being on stage for their performances.
They synchronise their breathing… and cut the rope!
Skilfully done, the rope has been cut with one stroke, and the body of “SEA SPICA” with a length of 25.7m and a weight of 80t smoothly enters the sea to the song “Shukko” (Starting on a Voyage) by STU48.
Mr. Shintaro Kawaguchi, the sales director of “Setouchi Craft Co., Ltd.” who was in charge of building SEA SPICA, is also gazing the ship, which is finally floating on the sea.
We believe that this is the deeply emotional moment for him, how does he feel now?
“I am relieved that SEA SPICA made it to the launching without incident. However, our job is not over yet,” Mr. Kawaguchi says, “we will carry out a test called an ‘official trial,’ which checks whether it can run as planned with speed of 22 knots (about 42km/h) after installing the prescribed equipment and weight equal to the 90-person capacity. Passing that test will allow us to settle down at last.”
But he gives us a smile, and it seems that he feels relieved at the moment.
The regular “SEA SPICA” service will start from October 2020.
Ms. Tanaka and Ms. Ishida, how do you feel, after attending the ceremony today?
“I was nervous from the beginning to the end of the ceremony,” said Ms. Tanaka.
She continues with her eyes shining, “but it will be an unforgettable memory for me as I could see the ship smoothly enter the sea from such a close position when we cut the rope.”
“I really appreciate this precious opportunity,” Ms. Ishida said. “The name ‘SEA SPICA’ is from the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, shining in the spring sky. And today, the ship was shining strongly in the rain, just like its name.”
In conclusion, Ms. Tanaka and Ms. Ishida chorused, “we would like to present the attractions of the wonderful Seto Inland Sea with SEA SPICA, not only to Japan, but also to the world.”
“SEA SPICA” will be presented in public at Hiroshima Port at the end of August, and start sailing for group tours occasionally in September.
Finally, its regular service is planned to start in October, to welcome general customers.
Please look forward to the successful performance of both “SEA SPICA” and STU48!
The name of the vessel : “SEA SPICA”
SPICA is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.
This star shines blue at night in spring, and is one of the first-magnitude stars which forms the Spring Triangle.
It is called the “pearl star” in Japan.
The vessel brilliantly and beautifully shines, and invites people to have free and open travel on the blue sea in Setouchi – this is SEA SPICA, the Setouchi high-speed sightseeing cruiser.
“SEA SPICA” contributes to “C to Sea Project” run by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Maritime companies, which introduces people to the enjoyment of the sea, and vessels to liven up the sea.
C to Sea Project in “Setouchi” carried by the Department of Transportation in the Chugoku area