SAN DIEGO - Forty-six years, a million and a half miles, and even a little bit of showbiz, the R/V Melville was one of the most well-traveled and well-known oceanographic research vessels in the world.

Now, this ship will serve the Philippines.

In a commissioning and baptism ceremony, the US Navy facilitated the transfer of the R/V Melville from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to the Philippine Navy.

The ship, which appeared on the 1976 "King Kong" movie, has led numerous ocean research studies throughout the world, and was given to the Philippines by the US military as an excess defense article, ready to do research and exploration.

It may be used for gathering information that may some day aid in ongoing territorial disputes, specifically in the West Philippine Sea.

While it is not meant for combat, the Melville, which is now renamed as BRP Gregorio Velasquez after the Filipino scientist, will be used by both the military and the private sector.

It will serve as a platform for scientific research, making those functions as well as humanitarian assistance and rescue efforts. These are the capabilities this vessel will provide.

Last November, the White House announced that the 279-foot research ship, along with the USCGC Boutwell, were part of the US military's efforts to help the Philippines maintains its maritime presence and patrols in its own waters.

The ship, which is docked at the San Diego Naval Base, is scheduled to embark for the Philippines on Thursday, while the cutter ship Boutwell, docked a few yards from Melville, will also be transferred to the Philippines soon.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez is expected to arrive at the Philippine Navy home port in Subic by late June, ready for duty.