NOAA 99-R807
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani

Ship Completes Extended Repair Period with Alaska Ship and Drydock

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's largest fisheries research ship, Miller Freeman, has completed a six-month, $7.5 million repair contract at Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan, Alaska, NOAA said today. This work marks the first time the Commerce Department agency has contracted with an Alaska shipyard for major repair work on a NOAA ship.

The 215 ft., 1,920 ton Miller Freeman is the only American ship in the north Pacific with the hydroacoustic, trawling, and oceanographic capabilities to conduct NOAA's critical research and stock assessment surveys. The fisheries data it collects—primarily on pollock and groundfish—enable the Pacific Northwest Fisheries Management Council to manage and set accurate quotas for the region's multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

The repair work, begun last September, focused on the modification and upgrade of many of the ship's mechanical and electrical systems that significantly improve the mission capability of the Miller Freeman.

The successful yard period included replacement, modification and overhaul of many of the engine room's components, including the main engine and generators; replacement of the reduction gear, shaft, and controllable pitch propeller to improve acoustic quieting; modifications to the after deck (fishing deck), improving the fishing capability of the vessel; hull/deck preservation and painting; installation of new rescue boat and davit; and modifications/upgrades to the many of the ship's mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical systems.

The work scheduled aboard Miller Freeman was a collaborative effort by the prime users of the vessel—scientists of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, and engineers with the Office of NOAA Corps Operations, which manages and operates the ship as part of the NOAA fleet. With the aggressive work by Alaska Ship and Drydock, this repair period significantly improves the capabilities and extends the life of the 32- year-old ship.

The ship proved its value to the commercial fishing industry three years ago when industry leaders, concerned about the apparent decrease in pollock stocks, asked Miller Freeman to do a special stock assessment survey using its highly specialized capabilities. The Freeman's research resulted in a 5-percent reduction in harvest quota instead of the much greater reduction expected – a difference to the industry of millions of dollars.

After a short stay in Seattle, the Miller Freeman's home port, the ship will leave in late March to begin fisheries research for the National Marine Fisheries Service in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Miller Freeman is under the command of Cmdr. Gary Petrae, an officer of the NOAA Commissioned Corps, the nation's seventh uniformed service.