NOAA 2006-R812
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani
NOAA News Releases 2006
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


VT Halter Marine Inc. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are celebrating construction milestones for two new vessels at the Moss Point, Miss., shipyard. A traditional keel laying ceremony is being 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 were also built by VT Halter Marine.

Annette Nevin Shelby, wife of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, is the sponsor of the Pisces, and will attend the ceremony as the keel-laying authenticator. With assistance from a shipyard welder, Shelby will engrave 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., under secretary 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.”

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 are attending 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.

“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., NOAA, who is director of NOAA’s 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.”

The 208-foot ships are being built to meet the requirements of 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 NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and 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, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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.

On the Web:

NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations and NOAA Corps:

VT Halter Marine: