Posted on July 12, 2023
Louisiana-based shipbuilder Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC has secured a $624.6 million contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to construct cutting-edge oceanographic research vessels. This contract includes the development of at least two state-of-the-art ships, with an option for two additional vessels, to enhance NOAA’s existing fleet and address the need for modernization.
Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC, known for its shipbuilding expertise, has a successful track record with NOAA. They are constructing two oceanographic research vessels scheduled for delivery in 2025 and 2026 at their shipyard in Houma, Louisiana. This new contract further strengthens their partnership.
The upcoming research vessels will primarily focus on seafloor mapping and marine wildlife observation, contributing to NOAA’s mission of providing essential tools and information for safe navigation. These vessels will also support assessing and managing living marine resources and various oceanographic research and modelling efforts.
NOAA’s research ships are instrumental in charting shallow bays, conducting environmental impact studies, and supporting fishing operations. With the largest fleet in the country, NOAA plays a crucial role in maritime safety, coastal resource management, and disaster response.
Funding for the research vessels is sourced from the Inflation Reduction Act, which supports environmental initiatives such as pollution regulation and addressing climate change impacts. This investment highlights NOAA’s commitment to scientific advancement and environmental stewardship.
The design of the new ships will prioritize seamless coordination, acquisition, and processing of extensive datasets, mainly from seafloor mapping and marine habitat studies. These vessels will enhance operational effectiveness and be equipped with crewed survey work boats, scientific equipment, and uncrewed systems.
Aligning with NOAA’s goal of achieving a net-zero emissions fleet by 2050, the research vessels will integrate advanced technologies. These include high-efficiency EPA Tier IV diesel engines and effective emissions control systems, reducing the fleet’s carbon footprint and promoting sustainability.
NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, PhD, expressed confidence in the ships’ ability to support safe navigation, coastal resource management, and the nation’s blue economy. He highlighted modern engine technology and design, aligning with NOAA’s sustainability commitment.
Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, Director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, emphasized the significance of the vessels for mapping the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, facilitating maritime commerce, and responding to natural disasters. She emphasized the ships’ role in meeting critical data collection needs at sea, ensuring economic security, public safety, and national security.
Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC was awarded the contract following a competitive selection process, considering the vessels’ capabilities for transportation, deployment, and recovery of crewed and uncrewed systems. The ships will accommodate up to 48 individuals, including officers, crew members, scientists, and other personnel.
In summary, NOAA has awarded Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC a $624.6 million contract to construct advanced oceanographic research vessels. These state-of-the-art ships will enhance NOAA’s seafloor mapping and marine wildlife observation capabilities, supporting safe navigation and coastal resource management. The project reflects NOAA’s commitment to environmental initiatives, with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC, known for its partnership with NOAA, will conduct the construction, further solidifying their collaboration.