The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today that it has awarded five-year contracts, with a total ceiling of $50 million each, to five hydrographic services providers including C&C Technologies Inc. of Lafayette, La., SAIC of Newport, R.I., David Evans and Associates of Portland, Ore., TerraSond LTD of Palmer, Alaska, and Fugro Pelagos of San Diego, Calif. All five contracts are subject to available budget funding and are national in scope covering all waters for which NOAA has nautical charting responsibility. "I'm excited to see that NOAA has contracted with a Lafayette company, which will help boost the local economy at a crucial time during our recovery efforts," said Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. "C&C Technologies Inc. will help NOAA update their nautical maps by providing an efficient method of ocean exploration, particularly in deep waters where survey processing can be reduced as much as four times." Vitter made his comments at a press event Monday in Lafayette, La. Specific locations for work will be established once survey needs and priorities are determined. Two projects, the Approaches to Port Fourchon, La., and survey work in the Gulf of Mexico to support U.S. interests defined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, will be carried out by C&C Technologies Inc. The 2005 hurricane season, which released debris and other possible obstructions to navigation into the Gulf, makes survey updates of this region a top priority. The contracts were awarded in August 2005, after a solicitation process that followed Architect Engineering (Brooks Act) Qualification Based Selection procedures. The contracts will expire August 31, 2010. "Addressing the hydrographic needs of this nation is critical to the safety and prosperity of the U.S. marine transportation system which in 2004 moved more than 2.5 billion tons of domestic and international freight at a value of more that $2 trillion," said Capt. Roger Parsons, director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. "These contracts will allow us to better meet the demand for accurate hydrographic information to maintain and produce up to date and reliable navigational charts. One of NOAA's missions is to support the nation's commerce with information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation." C&C Technologies was also awarded two additional contracts, totaling $3.75 million, through NOAA's Ocean Exploration program. The first supported a recently completed ocean exploration cruise, using the company's "Hugin Autonomous Underwater Vehicle," to map the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. The 19-day expedition included principle investigators from Texas A&M University and the University of Miami and yielded significant data. The second contract calls for C&C Technologies to develop a semi-submersible unmanned vehicle. The goal will be to apply new technical knowledge about the engineering and operation of unmanned vehicles in ocean exploration and mapping while also serving as a test-bed platform for development and evaluation of new instruments and sensors.