Hawaii will be home to new NOAA research vessel

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with Statue of Liberty in background. Photo courtesy NOAA.

The nation’s newest, state-of-the-art research vessel will be home-ported in Honolulu after construction is complete in 2023, positioned to continue world-leading research throughout the Pacific.

The Oceanographer, named after one of the first ships in the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fleet, is one of two brand new NOAA ships coming online as part of a broader effort to rebuild the U.S. oceanographic fleet.

The home port of the Oceanographer was announced today by Rep. Ed Case, who says the new ships ” will ensure that our country can continue with the vital research necessary to research and preserve our marine world that while still largely unknown is so vital to the present and future of our planet.”

“My effort toward rebuilding NOAA’s overall fleet and assuring Hawaii continued to lead our nation’s marine research efforts began when, in my first month back in Congress last January, NOAA advised that the 35-year-old research ship Hiialakai, home-ported in Hawaii, had to be decommissioned immediately,” Case said in a statement. “As a new member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, which oversees all NOAA funding, I then prioritized overall recapitalization of NOAA’s aging fleet, a short-term replacement of Hiialakai, and home-porting of the next new NOAA ship in Honolulu.”

Case said he worked with Hawaii’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Brian Schatz on the Senate’s counterpart appropriations subcommittee. In the end, all three priorities were met.

“This will assure not only that Hawaii will retain its world-leading role in oceanographic research but that the federal funding and high-quality jobs that come with it continue,” Case said.

The Oceanographer will be the first of two ships now under design for the fleet. The second ship, the Discoverer, will be assigned a home-port at a future date.

Case said NOAA expects to award contracts for the construction of the ships by the end of the year. Both will be built in the United States and construction timelines and target launch dates for the vessels will be confirmed after the shipbuilding contracts have been awarded.

NOAA currently has a fleet of 15 active research and survey ships, which are operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and crewed by NOAA’s Commissioned Officer Corps and civilian professional mariners. Each year, NOAA ships conduct more than 100 missions to collect data critical for nautical charts, fishery quotas, exploration of the nation’s 4.3-million-square-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, storm surge modeling and climate research.

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