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New Peruvian Training Ship Unión Largest of its Kind in Latin America

First Posted: Jan 28, 2016 03:17 PM EST

The Peruvian Navy on Jan. 27 commissioned its first-ever training vessel, Unión, which will be the largest such sailing ship in Latin America.

During the flag raising ceremony at the main naval port of Callao, President Ollanta Humala celebrated the ship's incorporation as a demonstration of the advancements in Peruvian naval engineering.

"This training ship shows how we have strengthened our infrastructure," the president boasted. "Today more than ever, our shipyards are exporting services, and we are showing the international community that we can build the kinds of vessels that we were previously used to buying."

Peru's Shipyard Marine Industrial Services, or SIMA, built the ship in collaboration with the Spanish firms CYPSA and Navantia. Defense Minister Jakke Valavivi praised Unión's completion, calling it "a lesson of national unity and testimony to the technical capacity of Peruvians who carried out this project following the highest international standards."

Ship Serves Double Purpose: School and Embassy

Unión will have a crew of up to 250 sailors and holds an auditorium, a library, a computer lab and classrooms where officer candidates will study various subjects, including astronomical navigation, meteorology, oceanography, hydrography and naval navigation, the radio station detailed.

Of the 250-man crew, 134 will be cadets accompanied by 25 officers and 86 permanent crewmembers on board, Infodefensa detailed. The ship was named after a famous predecessor, the corvette Unión, which played an important role in Peru's 1879-1883 Pacific War against Chile.

"May this sail ship travel all seas and proudly carry our sailors with the insignia of our national flag," Humala proclaimed. Unión's other role is to serve as Peru's "traveling embassy," bringing Peruvian culture and values to the rest of the world, the Peruvian president added.

The ship's figurehead is an image of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui reaching for the sun. According to Inca and Peruvian lore, Túpac Yupanqui was known as an explorer and is said to have visted the Gallapagos Islands and Easter Island. The image was created by the artist Pilar Martínez Woodman.

Unión Larger than Latin American Counterparts

At a length of some 379 feet, the four-masted Unión supersedes the training ships of other Latin American nations, including Chile's Esmeralda (371 feet), Argentina's Libertad (340 feet), Venezuela's Simón Bolívar (270 feet), Brazil's Cisne Branco (243 feet) and Mexico's Cuauhtémoc (220 feet).

The Peruvian vessel's construction begun in late 2012 and will be commanded by Captain Gianfranco Polar Figari, the navy noted in a statement. As part of its christening on Jan. 27, the ship received a special blessing from Bishop Juan Carlos Vera Plasencia, the head of the country's military Ordinariate, naval officials added.

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