NOAA awards $625 million contract for state-of-the-art research vessels Ship’s crew

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded a $624.6 million contract to Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors for the design and construction of two state-of-the-art research vessels. The contract includes an option to purchase two more vessels.

The two ships will be built in Houma, Louisiana and are expected to be delivered in 2027 and 2028.

The new ships will focus on marine mapping and nautical charts to help seafarers safely navigate US ports. The ships will also have the capability to assess and manage marine resources and collect data for oceanographic research and modelling.

“These state-of-the-art vessels will ensure we continue to serve NOAA’s mission of supporting safe shipping, coastal resource management and the nation’s blue economy,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “I am also proud that these new vessels feature modern engines and a design that will advance NOAA in reducing its own emissions with the goal of achieving a net-zero fleet.”

The ships will be able to coordinate, acquire and process large data sets and use manned survey workboats, scientific equipment and unmanned systems to enhance their work. They are used to map the seafloor and to characterize marine habitats.

The contract was awarded following a call for tenders open from June to October 2022.

“This is another milestone in NOAA’s effort to recapitalize our aging fleet of ships,” said NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. “These vessels are critical for mapping the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, enabling maritime trade and natural disaster response, and will allow us to meet critical data collection requirements at sea for economic security, public safety and security for many years to come and to comply with national security.”

The design and construction of new ships will be funded in part by the Inflation Reduction Act, which is investing $3.3 billion to help communities prepare for weather and climate events, improve weather and climate data and services, and the fleet of NOAA research aircraft and vessels.

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) is responsible for the operations, management, and maintenance of NOAA’s fleet. It includes the largest fleet of government research vessels in the United States, ranging from large oceanographic vessels to smaller shallow bay and bay mapping vessels. The fleet supports fisheries surveys, nautical charts, and marine and climate studies and is operated by officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian seafarers.

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