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NOAA awards $624.6 million contract for new research ships to map ocean floor

The NOAA has awarded a $624.6 million contract to Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC. to augment the NOAA's fleet of research vessels, which include the "Fairweather" (pictured). Photo courtesy of NOAA
The NOAA has awarded a $624.6 million contract to Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC. to augment the NOAA's fleet of research vessels, which include the "Fairweather" (pictured). Photo courtesy of NOAA

July 6 (UPI) -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded a $624.6 million contract to a Louisiana ship builder to develop at least two new advanced oceanographic research vessels.

The contract, which is expected to be complete by 2027 and 2028, also includes provisions for two potential additional research vessels to be built by Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC.

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The Louisiana-based ship manufacturer has experience building research vessels for the NOAA, with two research vessels under construction at the company's shipyard in Houma, La., and slated for delivery in 2025 and 2026.

The new ships, which will be designed to map the seafloor and observe marine wildlife, are intended to augment the NOAA's aging fleet of research vessels.

The NOAA says its vessels "comprise the largest fleet of research ships in the nation." The ships are used to chart shallow bays for incoming ships, study environmental effects, and support fishing.

Funding for the research vessels derives from Inflation Reduction Act, which has provided resources for numerous environmental projects, including the regulation of pollution and the mitigation of the effects of climate change.

"The new ships will focus primarily on ocean mapping and nautical charting as part of NOAA's mission to deliver tools and information to help mariners safely navigate the nation's ports and harbors," the NOAA said in a press release Thursday.

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The NOAA says its research vessels are crucial to U.S. shipping and disaster response.

"These ships are vital for mapping the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, enabling maritime commerce and responding to natural disasters and will allow us to meet critical at-sea data collection requirements for the economic security, public safety and national security for many years to come," director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations Nancy Hann.

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