A keel-laying ceremony for the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s new oceanographic research ship was held Wednesday in Houma, Louisiana at the Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors shipyard.
During the ceremony, the initials of the ship’s sponsor, Linda Kwok Schatz, wife of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, was welded onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship during construction.
Although technically Oceanographer does not have a traditional keel due to modern shipbuilding methods, the ceremony kept with the centuries-old maritime tradition that formally recognizes the start of a ship’s construction.
Oceanographer will support a wide range of NOAA’s 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. She is one of two ships being built for NOAA by TMC, which the agency ordered in 2020.
“NOAA ships play a vital role in meeting the large and growing demand for oceanic data, critical for protecting lives and livelihoods,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “The new capabilities of Oceanographer will contribute to NOAA’s sustained leadership in providing reliable, high-quality data to the nation, driving the New Blue Economy and doing so more efficiently than ever before.”
To support NOAA’s goal of reducing the agency’s carbon footprint, Oceanographer and its sister ship, Discoverer, will incorporate the latest eco-friendly technologies, including emissions controls and high-efficiency diesel engines that have potential to save 15,000 gallons per year for each vessel, resulting in an estimated reduction of approximately 5,700 tons of carbon dioxide.
“This efficiency is a success for the government, Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors and our planet, providing the lowest impact to the environment while studying the oceans we depend on,” said TMC Managing Director Walter Thomassie. “It is with much enthusiasm that we begin this phase of the project.”
Oceanographer will continue the legacy of its namesake, following in the steps of the first Oceanographer which served in the NOAA fleet from 1966 to 1996, sailing throughout the world as it studied all aspects of oceanography.
Oceanographer will be homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii with delivery expected in 2025, with Discoverer to follow in 2026.
“I am confident this new vessel will serve Hawaii and our country well,” said Linda Kwok Schatz.
Last month, NOAA opened a solicitation seeking proposals from U.S. shipbuilders for the design and construction of two new ocean survey ships. NOAA anticipates awarding the contract for the vessels in 2023 and taking delivery of the first two vessels by 2027. The solicitation includes options for NOAA to purchase two additional vessels of the same design.
NOAA’s fleet of research and survey ships is operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), which is responsible for operating, managing and maintaining NOAA ships.
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