NOAA’s New Oceanographic Research Ships Are Now Under Build

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  • Expected to join the NOAA fleet in 2025, Oceanographer will be homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will replace the 1989-built NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.
  • Each vessel will operate with a crew of 20 and will accommodate up to 28 scientists.
  • She was due to depart on June 16 from St. John’s, Newfoundland, but according to information NOAA’s website is currently delayed due to a mechanical issue. 

On June 15, work on the first of two oceanographic ships that will be built as part of NOAA’s fleet restoration initiative began (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as reported by Maritime Executive.

Built to commercial standards 

The agency celebrated a keel-laying ceremony recognizing the start of construction while demonstrating they are scientists by noting that the vessel does not have a traditional keel due to modern shipbuilding techniques.

The U.S. Navy awarded the $178 million contract for the detailed design and construction of the two vessels, to be named Oceanographer and Discoverer, in December 2020 to Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors, in Houma, Louisiana.

Designed as single-hull ships, Oceanographer and Discoverer will be built to commercial standards.

They will incorporate the latest technologies, including high-efficiency, environmentally friendly EPA Tier IV diesel engines, emissions controls for stack gases, new information technology tools for monitoring shipboard systems, and underwater scientific research and survey equipment.

“Today’s keel-laying ceremony marks a major step forward both in the construction of Oceanographer and the revitalization of NOAA’s ship fleet,” said Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, director of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

Mapping operations 

During the ceremony, the initials of the ship’s sponsor, Linda Kwok Schatz, wife of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, were welded onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship during construction.

Expected to join the NOAA fleet in 2025, Oceanographer will be homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will replace the 1989-built NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.

Each vessel will operate with a crew of 20 and will accommodate up to 28 scientists.

The 224-foot vessel was obtained by NOAA in 2004 and commissioned in 2008.

Before that she operated as the U.S. Naval Ship Capable, a T-AGOS class vessel.

She is assigned by NOAA to conduct mapping operations and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives on unexplored and poorly understood deepwater areas on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and Azores Plateau.

Survey & data collection 

”While we do not have a revised start date at this time, we will provide updates as soon as they are available, NOAA advises.”

“NOAA ships play a vital role in meeting the large and growing demand for oceanic data, critical for protecting lives and livelihoods,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, PhD. “The new capabilities of Oceanographer will contribute to NOAA’s sustained leadership in providing reliable, high-quality data to the nation, driving the New Blue Economy and doing so more efficiently than ever before.”

Oceanographers will support a wide variety of missions, ranging from general oceanographic research and exploration to marine life, climate, and ocean ecosystem studies.

These missions include shallow coastal, continental shelf, and worldwide ocean survey and data collection.

NOAA reported in 2020 that it currently has a fleet of 15 active research and survey ships, which are operated by OMAO and crewed by NOAA Corps officers and civilian professional mariners.

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Source: Maritime Executive

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