NOAA's 15-Year Plan to Invest in Ships

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NOAA has completed a detailed plan to modernize its marine operations 
by replacing nine research ships and refurbishing a tenth in the next 
15 years.
“Sea-going vessels are a key source of observational data used by NOAA 
scientists. A modern, more capable fleet will ensure we can meet the 
ever changing demands of the science community,” said retired Navy 
Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of 
commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “When I 
arrived at NOAA in 2001, the average age of our fleet was 32 years. 
Today, it is 27, and at the end of this ambitious program the age will 
drop to 17.”
NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations conducted an 
assessment of the 19 ships in the fleet, and determined that 10 of 
those vessels will reach the end of their useful service life over the 
next 15 years. The fleet replacement plan is a comprehensive program 
to systematically replace or upgrade the fleet.
The fleet supports a wide range of marine activities, including 
fisheries and coastal research, nautical charting, and long-range 
ocean and climate studies. NOAA's ships are specially equipped and 
designed to support the agency's programs, and have some capabilities 
not found in the commercial fleet.
Nine vessels have entered into service since 2001 including Okeanos 
Explorer, the first NOAA vessel solely dedicated to ocean exploration, 
on Aug. 13. Two additional ships are scheduled to enter service within 
the next year: Pisces, which will be homeported in , and 
Bell M. Shimada, which will be homeported on the West Coast.
The NOAA fleet is managed, operated and maintained by NOAA’s Office of 
Marine and Aviation Operations. This office is composed of officers of 
the NOAA Corps, a uniformed service of the , and civilian 
personnel.

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