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August 25, 2005

Todd Pacific wins NOAA conversion contract

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded a contract for $13.4 million to Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation of Seattle, Wash., to convert a former U.S. Navy surveillance vessel to a NOAA research ship that will explore the world's oceans.

"This ship is the first in the NOAA fleet to be designated exclusively for ocean exploration, and the scientist-explorers who sail on her will add their observations to the world's body of knowledge about this largely unexplored frontier," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Once its conversion is complete, the ship will be an important link in the Global Earth Observing System of Systems."

Following the transfer of the USNS Capable to NOAA last September, the Navy also transferred $18 million of its appropriated operating funds in FY 2005. The funds will be applied to the conversion contract and a separate purchase of specialized onboard and shoreside equipment to connect expeditions at sea in real time to teams of scientists, and to teachers and students ashore via satellite and Internet .

Under the contract, Todd Pacific Shipyards will develop drawings and specifications incorporating NOAA's conversion items. This process will take about six months. Concurrently, the shipyard will overhaul all equipment on the ship that NOAA has identified for repair or upgrade. Other equipment will be opened up and inspected to determine if maintenance or repairs are needed. Once all conversion item requirements and costs are determined by the shipyard, NOAA will choose which items to authorize under the parameters of the contract.

The ship will be renamed Okeanos Explorer as a result of a nationwide NOAA ship-naming contest. "Okeanos" is the ancient Greek term for ocean. The winning name was submitted by a team of students from Woodstock High School in Woodstock, Ill., and was one of nearly 400 entries received.

Following conversion, the ship will support NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration on ocean expeditions to unknown and poorly known areas of the ocean. It will be equipped for ocean floor mapping, deployment of remotely operated vehicles, scientific work in onboard laboratories, and real-time transmission of images and data collected during ocean expeditions.

The shipyard's work is expected to be completed in the spring or summer of 2007. The ship's future home port has not been determined.

Okeanos Explorer will be operated and managed by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations in support of NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration. NMAO includes civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation's seven uniformed services. The Corps is composed of officers--all scientists and engineers--who provide operational, management and technical skills supporting NOAA's environmental programs.

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