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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Thoma-Sea Awarded Contract to Build Two NOAA Research Ships

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

July 6, 2023

NOAA Ship Fairweather is one of the current charting and mapping vessels in the NOAA fleet. (Photo: NOAA)

NOAA Ship Fairweather is one of the current charting and mapping vessels in the NOAA fleet. (Photo: NOAA)

Houma, La. shipbuilder Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors has been awarded a contract to design and build two new research vessels for NOAA, for expected delivery in 2027 and 2028.

The $624.6 million deal was awarded following a request for proposals that was open June–October 2022 and includes purchase options for up to two more vessels.

The new ships will be less than 90 meters long, engineered to focus primarily on ocean mapping and nautical charting as part of NOAA’s mission to deliver tools and information to help mariners safely navigate the nation’s ports and harbors. The vessels will also have capabilities to help assess and manage living marine resources and collect data for oceanographic monitoring, research and modeling activities.

“These state-of-the-art ships will ensure that we can continue to meet NOAA’s mission to support safe navigation, coastal resource management and the nation’s blue economy,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “I’m also proud that these new vessels will harness modern engines and design that will move NOAA forward in reducing its own emissions with an eye towards achieving a net-zero fleet.”

The ships' propulsion systems be integrated diesel electric with twin alternating current (AC) azimuthing stern thrusters using fixed pitch propellers.

The ships will be designed to coordinate, acquire and process large data sets like those gathered from mapping the seafloor and characterizing marine habitats. They will also have the ability to deploy crewed survey work boats, scientific equipment and uncrewed systems, which enhance the work the ship does.

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

The design and construction of these new ships is funded in part by the Inflation Reduction Act — a $3.3 billion investment to help communities prepare, adapt and build resilience to weather and climate events. The act also supports improvements to weather and climate data and services, and strengthens NOAA’s fleet of research airplanes and ships.

The research and survey ships operated, managed and maintained by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations comprise the largest fleet of federal research ships in the nation. Ranging from large oceanographic research vessels capable of exploring the world’s deepest ocean, to smaller ships responsible for charting the shallow bays and inlets of the U.S. The fleet supports a wide range of marine activities, including fisheries surveys, nautical charting and ocean and climate studies. NOAA ships are operated by NOAA Corps officers and civilian professional mariners.

In additional to the newly awarded vessels, Thoma-Sea is currently building another pair of research ships for NOAA, Oceanographer and Discoverer, for scheduled delivery in 2025 and 2025.

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