On May 19, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced it is seeking proposals from U.S. shipbuilders to design and construct new ships for coastal, continental shelf, and deep ocean data collection requirements.
The solicitation closes on Aug. 16 and is for a strict, 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 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 in the May 19 press release.
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 accommodate 48 people, consisting of commissioned officers, professional civilian crew members, scientists, and other personnel. In addition, NOAA has set a goal of achieving net-zero emissions for its ship fleet by 2050. Therefore, the new ships must incorporate the latest technologies, including high-efficiency, environmentally friendly EPA Tier IV diesel engines and emissions controls.
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. In Houma, Louisiana, Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors 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.
NOAA’s fleet of research and survey ships is operated, managed, and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. NOAA ships are crewed by NOAA Corps officers and civilian professional mariners. 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.