HOUMA, La. — A shipyard in Louisiana has a $178 million Navy contract to build two new research ships for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC is located in Houma, the same city where another shipyard is building three smaller research vessels for the National Science Foundation.
The ships will be named Oceanographer and Discoverer after ships that served from the mid-1960s until 1996. The Oceanographer will be homeported in Honolulu. The second ship’s home port has not yet been assigned.
Each will operate with a crew of 20 and will be able to carry up to 28 scientists for up to 40 days. The National Science Foundation vessels will be able to carry about 13 crew members and 16 scientists for up to 21 days.
“The nation will benefit greatly from the information these state-of-the-art vessels will collect for decades to come,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a news release last week.
NOAA says its ships will use the latest technologies, including high-efficiency, environmentally friendly diesel engines, emissions controls and underwater scientific research and survey equipment.
They’ll be able to handle a wide variety of research in shallow and deep water, including general oceanographic, marine life, climate and ocean ecosystem studies, the agency’s statement said.
They’ll be operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. That office includes both civilians and officers with the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, one of the nation’s eight uniformed services.
The ships are expected to be completed by June 2024, with about 60% of the work in Houma, according to Thursday’s contract announcement. Other work locations include Georgia, Washington state, Virginia and Norway.
Thoma-Sea’s shipyard is less than 2 miles from Gulf Island Shipyards, which is building the three research vessels for use by groups of university scientists.
The first is scheduled for delivery this year to Oregon State University. It’s called the Taani, a Siletz Indian word meaning “offshore” and pronounced like the English word “tawny.”
The Resolution will be operated by the University of Rhode Island.
A vessel that is expected to begin studies in the Gulf of Mexico in 2023 will be named the Gilbert R. Mason, after a Mississippi physician and civil rights activist.