Thoma-Sea Marine Wins Deal to Build Pair of NOAA Oceanographic Ships

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

January 1, 2021

Oceanographer and Discoverer will join NOAA's ship fleet, which includes NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown, the agency's largest research vessel. (Photo: Wes Struble/NOAA)

Oceanographer and Discoverer will join NOAA's ship fleet, which includes NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown, the agency's largest research vessel. (Photo: Wes Struble/NOAA)

NOAA’s effort to recapitalize its aging fleet of research ships took a major step forward today with the U.S. Navy’s award of a $178,082,877 contract to Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC, Houma, La., for the detailed design and construction of two new oceanographic ships.

NOAA is acquiring the vessels through an agreement with the Naval Sea Systems Command, a leader in building, providing and procuring large research ships for the nation's research fleet.

The first ship, to be named Oceanographer, will be homeported in Honolulu. The second ship, to be named Discoverer, will be assigned a homeport at a future date. Both vessels will continue the legacies of their namesakes. The first Oceanographer served in the NOAA fleet from 1966 to 1996 and her sister ship, Discoverer, served from 1967 to 1996.

The new ships will support a wide variety of missions, ranging from general oceanographic research and exploration to marine life, climate and ocean ecosystem studies. These missions include shallow coastal, continental shelf, and worldwide ocean survey and data collection.
Designed as single-hull ships, Oceanographer and Discoverer will be built to commercial standards. They will incorporate the latest technologies, including high-efficiency, environmentally friendly EPA Tier IV diesel engines, emissions controls for stack gases, new information technology tools for monitoring shipboard systems, and underwater scientific research and survey equipment.

The ships will be equipped to launch work boats, perform maintenance on buoys and moorings, deploy scientific instruments to collect weather and water column data, and conduct seafloor mapping surveys. Each vessel will operate with a crew of 20 and will accommodate up to 28 scientists.
“This contract award represents a major step forward in the process to recapitalize NOAA’s ship fleet,” said NOAA Rear Adm. Michael J. Silah, director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO). “We thank the Navy, our valued partner, for its assistance with this acquisition.”

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