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NOAA Announces 15-Year Plan to Upgrade its Fleet of Research Ships

October 23, 2008

Pisces christening ceremony.
Pisces christening ceremony.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has completed a detailed plan to modernize its marine operations by replacing nine research ships and refurbishing a 10th in the next 15 years.

“Sea-going vessels are a key source of observational data used by NOAA scientists. A modern, more capable fleet will ensure we can meet the ever changing demands of the science community,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “When I arrived at NOAA in 2001, the average age of our fleet was 32 years. Today, it is 27, and at the end of this ambitious program the age will drop to 17.”

Okeanos Explorer conversion video.
Okeanos Explorer conversion.

Download as QuickTime [MOV] (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations conducted an assessment of the 19 ships in the fleet, and determined that 10 of those vessels will reach the end of their useful service life over the next 15 years. The fleet replacement plan is a comprehensive program to systematically replace or upgrade the fleet.

The fleet supports a wide range of marine activities, including fisheries and coastal research, nautical charting, and long-range ocean and climate studies. NOAA's ships are specially equipped and designed to support the agency's programs, and have some capabilities not found in the commercial fleet.

Nine vessels have entered into service since 2001, including Okeanos Explorer, the first NOAA vessel solely dedicated to ocean exploration, on Aug. 13. Two additional ships are scheduled to enter service within the next year: Pisces, which will be homeported in Mississippi, and Bell M. Shimada, which will be homeported on the West Coast.

Bell Shimada launch video.
Bell Shimada launch.

Download as QuickTime [MOV] (Credit: NOAA)

The NOAA fleet is managed, operated and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. This office is composed of officers of the NOAA Corps, a uniformed service of the United States, and civilian personnel.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.