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NOAA Requests Proposals for the Design and Construction of New Ocean Survey Ships

Mike Schuler
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May 19, 2022

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking proposals from U.S. shipbuilders for the design and construction of two new ocean survey ships for the agency.

The new vessels will primarily be used in support NOAA’s coastal, continental shelf and deep ocean data collection requirements.

The solicitation, which opened today and closes on August 16, 2022, requests proposals for a firm, fixed-price contract for two vessels, with options for NOAA to purchase two additional vessels of the same design. The successful bidder will be responsible for both designing and building the new ships.

“NOAA ships play a vital role in supporting safe navigation, commerce, marine resource management and ocean exploration,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “Adding new, American-built ships to the NOAA fleet will dramatically increase our ability to provide data essential for protecting lives and livelihoods and strengthening the New Blue Economy.”

According to NOAA’s requirements, the new ships must have the capability to carry, deploy and recover multiple crewed and uncrewed vessels to support nautical charting and seafloor survey missions. They must also be able to accommodate 48 people, consisting of commissioned officers, professional civilian crew members, scientists and other personnel. In-line with NOAA’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions for its ship fleet by 2050, the new ships must also incorporate the latest technologies, including high-efficiency, environmentally-friendly EPA Tier IV diesel engines and emissions controls.

“These new ships will be equipped with state-of-the-art ocean data collection systems that will enable us to map, chart, study and explore the ocean with unprecedented detail,” said Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, director of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), which is responsible for operating, managing and maintaining NOAA ships.

NOAA anticipates awarding the contract for this acquisition in 2023 and taking delivery of the first two vessels by 2027. The agency has not yet assigned a homeport for these new ships.

This acquisition represents the second phase of NOAA’s ship fleet recapitalization effort. Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors in Houma, Louisiana, is currently building two new oceanographic ships for NOAA, Oceanographer and Discoverer. Those vessels are expected to join the NOAA fleet in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

NOAA’s fleet of research and survey ships consists of 15 ships, according to the OMAO website. NOAA ships are crewed by NOAA Corps officers and civilian professional mariners. Each year, NOAA ships collect data critical for nautical charts, sustainable fishery management, marine mammal protection, storm surge modeling, climate research and exploration of the nation’s 4.3-million-square-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

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