NOAA seeking bids for two new survey vessels

(WASHINGTON) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking proposals from U.S. shipbuilders for the design and construction of new ships for the agency. The new vessels will primarily support NOAA’s coastal, continental shelf and deep ocean data collection requirements.

The solicitation, which opens May 19 and closes on Aug. 16, is 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. “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.”

Crewmembers aboard a NOAA ship use a crane to hoist a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the water in 2016. NOAA photo

To meet 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 crewmembers, scientists and other personnel.

NOAA has set a goal of achieving net-zero emissions for its ship fleet by 2050. To support NOAA’s goal of reducing the agency’s carbon footprint, the new ships must incorporate the latest technologies, including high-efficiency, environmentally-friendly EPA Tier 4 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) and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

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 home port for these new ships.

This acquisition represents the second phase of NOAA’s ship fleet recapitalization effort. Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors in Houma, La., 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 is operated, managed and maintained by OMAO. 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.

– National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

By Rich Miller