VT Halter to build SWATH survey ship for NOAA

VT Halter Marine has signed a contract to build a $15 million small water plane area twin hull (SWATH) vessel for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Halter, based in Pascagoula, Miss., also designed the $15 million vessel under an earlier contract.

The coastal mapping vessel (CMV) will be used to map the seafloor in coastal areas for the nation’s nautical charts.

“It will also be used for periodic navigational area clearance of fairways and approaches to ports, investigate individual items deemed hazardous to surface navigation, and conduct research in support of nautical charting and seafloor mapping,” said Rear Adm. Samuel P. De Bow Jr., director of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

“A SWATH platform is ideal for such work,” he said, since the catamaran hulls will be ‘less responsive to wave action than a monohull, thereby reducing motion of the vessel.’ This design should result in “more reliable data acquisition and better seakeeping,” he said.

The new vessel will operate from Fort Point in New Castle, N.H., and will offer research opportunities with the NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire.

VT Halter has been a key component in NOAA’s active fleet replacement program. To date, the company has delivered a pair of sophisticated fisheries research vessels and is building two more.

“It is always exciting to take a project from blueprint to blue water,” said Boyd E. King, chief executive of VT Halter.

Using side-scan and multi-beam sonar technologies, the 124-by-60-foot vessel will be able to monitor changes in the seafloor including obstructions, shoaling and other dangers to navigation.

The vessel will be operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, comprising civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps.

The ship’s missions will normally last five to 10 days during all seasons of the year. The ship is powered by a pair of Caterpillar C32 diesel engines rated at 1,450 hp each at 2,100 rpm. Two Reintjes WGF 762 reduction gears couple the engines to a pair of five-bladed, 90-inch diameter Rolls-Royce propellers. A pair of Caterpillar C9 SSDG engines drives 250-kW generators for ship’s power. The vessel has a design speed of 12.4 knots and accommodations for 14.

NOAA currently operates four hydrographic survey vessels, Fairweather, Thomas Jefferson, Rainier and Rude. The SWATH vessel, scheduled for delivery in the summer of 2008, will replace the 40-year-old Rude.

In addition to the five-vessel construction program at Halter, NOAA has a major conversion and overhaul program at Todd Pacific in Seattle. The vessel Capable is having corroded hull steel replaced, major machinery rebuilt and habitability spaces refreshed. New gear is being installed to support ocean exploration. The vessel will be renamed Okeanos Explorer.

By Professional Mariner Staff