VT Halter Marine to Build Swath Vessel for NOAA
NOAA announced that VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Miss., will complete the final design and build of a new Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull Coastal Mapping Vessel, or SWATH CMV, for the agency. NOAA exercised a $15m option for the ship with VT Halter Marine, which also completed the vessel's preliminary design under a separate option. The primary mission of the SWATH CMV will be to map the full seafloor in coastal areas for the nation's nautical charts. It will operate in waterways along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Caribbean Sea and Great Lakes, conducting basic hydrographic surveys of the seafloor using side scan and multibeam sonar technologies. The vessel's ability to monitor and detect changes to the seafloor—including obstructions, shoaling and other dangers to navigation—will enhance the nation's commerce and security and improve NOAA’s ability to characterize marine ecosystems. VT Halter Marine expects to deliver the SWATH CMV by the summer of 2008. The nearly 38-meter long vessel will be homeported at Fort Point in New Castle, N.H., and will replace the 40-year-old NOAA ship Rude. Locating the vessel at New Castle will significantly enhance coastal and ocean mapping research partnership opportunities with the NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire. U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, who was instrumental in securing funds for the SWATH CMV, stated, "This vessel provides a cutting-edge platform for NOAA and UNH scientists and undergraduates to test new ocean mapping technologies and conduct hydrographic research in near coastal environments, previously inaccessible with traditional vessels. The SWATH ship will help to grow the already successful UNH-NOAA partnership and help UNH remain a national leader in oceanographic work." Once operational, the new SWATH CMV will be operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation's seven uniformed services. The SWATH will support the nautical charting mission of the NOAA Office of Coast Survey.