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December 30, 2003

NOAA awards SWATH design contracts

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded identical contracts to VT Halter Marine Inc. of Gulfport, Miss., and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders Inc. of Freeland, Wash., to develop feasibility studies and preliminary designs for a new coastal mapping vessel.

The ship will be a small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) vessel.

To be homeported in the Portland, N.H., area, the ship is to conduct sea floor mapping in coastal areas, primarily hydrographic surveys in support of nautical charting.

.Slated to replace NOAA ship Rude, the SWATH vessel will have enhanced sea-keeping ability and will therefore be a more efficient survey platform. A SWATH vessel is well suited for hydrographic surveys as it is less responsive to wave action than a mono-hull ship. Its reduced motion will result in more reliable collection of survey data .

VT Halter Marine and Nichols Brothers will compete to produce the best design of the SWATH using requirements developed by NOAA. Each company is to complete its design by May 2004. The company whose design is selected will build the vessel.

NOAA expects the SWATH to be constructed and operational by 2006. It is to be home ported in the Portsmouth, N.H., area at the University of New Hampshire's marine science facility. The vessel will be designed to operate in waters of the East and Gulf Coasts, Caribbean and Great Lakes.

The NOAA fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft is operated, managed, and maintained by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations (NMAO). NMAO includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilians. The NOAA Corps is the nation's seventh and smallest uniformed service. NMAO is managing the SWATH contracts.

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