NOAA research vessel

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Authority (NOAA) announced that it will add two newbuild ships to its fleet of ground breaking research vessels.

The agency states that it has selected Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors, LLC. for the $624.6 million contract to initially design and build two cutting-edge research vessels, with an option to purchase two more.

This contract was awarded following a request for proposals that was open during June–October 2022, and now the first two ships will be built in Houma, Louisiana, with an expected delivery date of 2027 and 2028 it was mentioned in the statement.

The new ships will 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.

Ships from around the world move $1.5 trillion worth of products in and out of U.S. ports every year and rely on navigation charts to do so safely.

The new vessels will have additional capabilities to help assess and manage living marine resources and collect data for oceanographic monitoring, research and modeling activities.

US NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. said that “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,” and also that “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.”

US NOAA Corps Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, said that “This is another milestone in NOAA’s effort to recapitalize our aging fleet of ships,” and that “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 historic $3.3 billion investment to help communities, including tribes and vulnerable populations, prepare, adapt and build resilience to weather and climate events in pursuit of a climate-ready nation.

The act also supports improvements to weather and climate data 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 USA. 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.