Home research company Houma company starts first of two ocean research vessels

Houma company starts first of two ocean research vessels

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A Houma company has launched the first of two ocean research vessels that will employ 300 to 400 people locally and cost nearly $200 million to build.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors celebrated Wednesday with a keel-laying ceremony for the oceanographer at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center.

“NOAA ships play a vital role in meeting the large and growing demand for ocean data, essential for protecting lives and livelihoods,” said agency administrator Rick Spinrad. “Oceanographer’s new capabilities will contribute to NOAA’s continued leadership in providing reliable, high-quality data to the nation.”

The Oceanographer will support a variety of missions, including general ocean research and exploration to studies of marine life, climate and ecosystems. The ship, which will cost just under $100 million to build, is expected to be completed in 2025. Its homeport will be Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Thoma-Sea will begin construction of the ship’s sister ship, the Discoverer, in October, with completion expected in 2026. A homeport has yet to be decided.

The Houma company won the $178 million contract for the two US Navy ships in January. This is part of NOAA’s ongoing program to replace its aging research fleet. The first Oceanographer served from 1966 to 1996. The Discoverer served from 1967 to 1996.

Thoma-Sea chief executive Walter Thomassie, 51, said work on the Oceanographer will involve about 700 suppliers and vendors across the United States.

The ship, 244 1/2 feet by 51 1/4 feet, will be able to carry 48 people for 65 days at a time. It will be maintained by a crew of 20 and 28 scientists will conduct research.

Both ships will incorporate the latest technologies, including emissions controls and high-efficiency diesel engines, officials said. The technology has the potential to save 15,000 gallons of fuel per year for each vessel, resulting in an estimated reduction of 5,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“So very similar to what you have in cars now,” Thomassie said. “So we’ve incorporated those elements into our design, so it’s a really big step forward in that regard in terms of efficiency and ecology.”