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Published:June 25th, 2006 09:24 EST

Fisheries Survey Vessels

By SOP newswire

VT Halter Marine Inc. and NOAA celebrated construction milestones for two new vessels at the Moss Point, Miss., shipyard. A traditional keel laying ceremony was conducted for NOAA ship Pisces, preceded by the initial cutting of steel for the fourth and final vessel in the series. Considered among the world's most technologically advanced fisheries research vessels, these sister ships will join NOAA ships Oscar Dyson and Henry B. Bigelow, which also were built by VT Halter Marine. (Click NOAA image for larger view of Annette Nevin Shelby in protective garb welding her signature on the keel plate. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Annette Nevin Shelby, wife of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, is the sponsor of the Pisces, and attended the ceremony as the keel-laying authenticator. With assistance from a shipyard welder, Shelby engraved her name on the keel plate, which will then be incorporated into the ship during construction. On the same day, construction of the fourth new fisheries survey vessel will begin with a ceremonial cutting of a steel plate.

"Today's events are especially significant for NOAA," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Building these vessels will help us better assess the health of the country's marine fish stocks as well as modernize our fleet of NOAA research vessels." (Click NOAA image for larger view of retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, acknowledging the major milestone in the modernization of the NOAA fleet. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

A team of five seventh-grade students and their teacher from Sacred Heart School in Southaven, Miss., won the "Name NOAA's New Ship" contest with the name "Pisces." The contest was open to NOAA employees in the region and to middle schools in Mississippi. The winning team produced an essay that supported their selection of a ship name. The students, their teacher and principal attended the keel laying ceremony today as guests of NOAA.

"We are delighted that the Mississippi students who helped us name NOAA ship Pisces are joining us at today's ceremony," Lautenbacher said. "NOAA held a contest to name this vessel as a way to encourage them to learn more about the science behind the marine and coastal resources at their backdoor."

Pisces, to be homeported in Pascagoula, Miss., will support NOAA research, which is the scientific basis for conservation and management of fisheries and marine ecosystems. (Click NOAA image for larger view of keel of NOAA ship Pisces as it looms over tents set up for ceremony in Moss Point, Miss. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"With this new class of vessel, NOAA is increasing the efficiency of its fisheries research with state-of-the art technology. These ships are so quiet, for example, that we expect scientists to be able to study fish and marine mammals with little impact on their behavior," said Rear Admiral Samuel P. De Bow Jr., who is director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. "The new ships are replacing vessels that are around 40 years old."

"We are excited to celebrate this construction milestone on the third vessel and commence work on the fourth ship intended for the vital mission of protecting our world's fisheries," said Boyd E. King, VT Halter Marine's chief executive officer. "The men and women of VT Halter Marine are proud of their continued work on U.S. government projects that include multi-mission ships. These ships serve our nation's interests domestically and internationally." (Click NOAA image for larger view of all of the participants of the ceremony pose in front of the keel of Pisces. [left to right in back] Catherine Warwick, principal, Joe Bohr, NOAA, Gen. Butch King, VT Halter Marine, Annette Nevin Shelby, sponsor, NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, Steve Murawski, NOAA, Rear Admiral Sam De Bow, NOAA, Jeannine Foucault, teacher, students [in front] Sydney Hudspeth, Chelsea Hensley, Maddie Simmons, Molly Mohler, Michael Grillo. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The 208-foot ships are being built to meet the requirements of the NOAA Fisheries Service as well as tough acoustic quieting standards set by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas, a European-based organization that has developed a set of standards to optimize fisheries research. NOAA fishery ships have highly specialized capabilities, such as performing hydro-acoustic surveys of fish, bottom and mid-water trawls, and running physical and biological-oceanographic sampling during a single deployment.

Once operational, the new fisheries survey vessels will be operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation's seven uniformed services. (Click NOAA image for larger view of Annette Nevin Shelby, who as sponsor of the ship, will be associated with PISCES throughout its service lifetime. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

VT Halter Marine is the marine operations of Vision Technologies Systems. Based in Pascagoula, Miss., it is a leader in the design and construction of medium-sized ships in the United States. VT Halter Marine designs, builds and repairs a wide variety of ocean-going vessels such as patrol vessels, oil recovery vessels, oil cargo vessels, ferries, logistic support vessels and survey vessels.

In 2007, NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. (Click NOAA image for larger view of student winners posing next to the NOAA ship naming contest poster. [left to right] Sydney Hudspeth, Catherine Warwick, principal, Maddie Simmons, Chelsea Hensley, Molly Mohler, Jeannine Foucault, teacher, Michael Grillo. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

Media Contact:
Jeanne Kouhestani, NOAA Office of Maine and Aviation Operations, (301) 713-7693
(Photos courtesy of Ray Broussard.)