NOAA and Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors (TMC) have held a keel-laying ceremony in Houma, Louisiana, for NOAA’s newest oceanographic research ship, Oceanographer.
During the ceremony, the initials of the ship’s sponsor, Linda Kwok Schatz, wife of US senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, were welded onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship during construction. Although Oceanographer does not have a traditional keel due to modern shipbuilding methods, the ceremony was in keeping with centuries-old maritime tradition that formally recognizes the start of a ship’s construction.
Rick Spinrad, NOAA administrator, said, “NOAA ships play a vital role in meeting the large and growing demand for oceanic data, critical for protecting lives and livelihoods. The new capabilities of Oceanographer will contribute to NOAA’s sustained leadership in providing reliable, high-quality data to the nation, driving the new blue economy and doing so more efficiently than ever before.”
Oceanographer will support a wide variety of missions, ranging from general oceanographic research and exploration to marine life, climate and ocean ecosystem studies. These missions include shallow coastal, continental shelf and worldwide ocean survey and data collection.
“Today’s keel-laying ceremony marks a major step forward both in the construction of Oceanographer and the revitalization of NOAA’s ship fleet,” said Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, director of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.
Oceanographer is one of two ships being built for NOAA by TMC. To support NOAA’s goal of reducing the agency’s carbon footprint, Oceanographer and its sister ship, Discoverer, will incorporate the latest technologies, including emissions controls and high-efficiency diesel engines that have the potential to save 15,000 gallons per year for each vessel, resulting in an estimated reduction of approximately 5,700 tons of carbon dioxide.
Oceanographer will continue the legacy of its namesake. The first Oceanographer served in the NOAA fleet from 1966 to 1996 and sailed throughout the world as it studied all aspects of oceanography. The ship will be based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is expected to join the NOAA fleet in 2025, with Discoverer to follow in 2026.