Ship boat

Thoma-Sea Marine organizes the laying of the keel of an oceanographic research vessel

June 16, 2022

A welder from Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors, LLC, welds the initials of the oceanographer’s godmother, Linda Kwok Schatz, onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship in keeping with maritime tradition. (NOAA) Photo by NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Thoma-Mer Marine builders LLC (TMC) on Wednesday held a keel-laying ceremony in Houma, Louisiana, for NOAA’s newest oceanographic research vessel, Oceanographer.

The Oceanographer will support a wide variety of missions, ranging from general oceanographic research and exploration to studies of marine life, climate and ocean ecosystems. These missions include surveys and data collection on shallow coasts, the continental shelf and the global ocean.

“NOAA ships play a vital role in meeting the large and growing demand for ocean data, essential for protecting lives and livelihoods,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. ., in his remarks “The new capacities of Oceanographer will contribute to NOAA’s continued leadership in delivering reliable, high-quality data to the nation, driving the new blue economy, and doing it more efficiently than ever.”

Oceanographer is one of two ships built for NOAA by TMC. To support NOAA’s goal of reducing the agency’s carbon footprint, Oceanographer and her sistership, Discoverer, will incorporate the latest technology, 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 around 5,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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, Wednesday’s ceremony was in keeping with the centuries-old maritime tradition that officially recognizes the beginning of a ship’s construction.

“Today’s keel laying ceremony marks a major step forward in both the construction of Oceanographer and the revitalization of the NOAA fleet of ships,” said Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, director of the NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations Office (OMAO) and NOAA Officer Corps.

NOAA’s fleet of research and survey vessels is operated, managed and maintained by OMAO. NOAA ships are manned by NOAA Corps officers and civilian professional sailors.

“This efficiency is a win for government, Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors and our planet, delivering the lowest environmental impact while studying the oceans we depend on,” said Walter Thomassie, TMC’s chief executive. “It is with great enthusiasm that we begin this phase of the project.”

Oceanographer will continue the legacy of its namesake. The first ship named Oceanographer served in the NOAA fleet from 1966 to 1996 and sailed the world studying all aspects of oceanography.

New Oceanographer will be homeported in Honolulu. The ship is expected to join the NOAA fleet in 2025, with Discoverer to follow in 2026.

Climate, weather and water affect all life on our ocean planet. NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict our changing environment, from the deep sea to outer space, and to manage and conserve America’s coastal and marine resources.