New NOAA Research Vessel is Hawai‘i Bound

February 11, 2020, 11:18 AM HST (Updated February 11, 2020, 11:25 AM)

The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette is home to scientists from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center during the fall survey. PC: NOAA

A new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship will be homeported in Honolulu, according to multiple Hawai‘i legislators.

Once operational, the new ship, dubbed the Oceanographer, will support a wide variety of missions, including ocean research, marine life exploration and climate and ocean ecosystem studies. It is set for completion in 2023.

US Representative Ed Case said the new research vessel “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.”

The Oceanographer will replace NOAA Ship Hi‘ialakai, which was retired early because of extensive corrosion. That is why in addition to helping secure funding, Sen. Brian Schatz has called on NOAA leaders to complete a full assessment of its fleet to determine if any other NOAA ship has hidden damage to its hull.


Design of the vessels is currently underway, and 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 determined after the shipbuilding contracts have been awarded. The second ship will be assigned a homeport at a future date.

NOAA currently has a fleet of 15 active research and survey ships. 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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