NOAA 99-R832
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


The NOAA ship Gordon Gunter has returned to service after completing six months of modification and conversion that will enable it to perform a diversity of oceanographic and fisheries-related research missions in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today.

"These enhancements will improve the ability of NOAA Fisheries to collect high-quality data throughout a greater range of geography and sea conditions in the Gulf and South Atlantic," said Penny Dalton, director of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

The conversion was performed for less than $5 million by Boland Marine & Manufacturing Company Inc. of New Orleans, La., at its facility in Gretna, La. The Gunter has replaced the recently decommissioned 127-ft. Chapman, which served the Gulf community for 18 years but had exceeded its useful life expectancy.

The Gunter is a 224-foot research platform of the NOAA fleet. The ship was built in 1990 as the USNS Relentless, a T-AGOS 13 class vessel built by Halter Marine, Inc., of Moss Point, Miss., and designed for Navy ocean surveillance missions. The Navy transferred the ship to NOAA, which activated the vessel in early 1998 for marine mammal and plankton studies in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern United States. The ship was re-commissioned by Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley in August 1998 as the Gordon Gunter, in honor of Dr. Gordon Gunter, a noted marine biologist who was a leader in establishing marine scientific studies in the Gulf area.

The conversion of a T-AGOS 13 class vessel to a biological oceanographic research vessel involved the addition of a stern trawl ramp and handling gear, nine deck and oceanographic winches, plus the conversion of mission space to 1490 square
feet of dedicated laboratory space. The ship now boasts a new wet lab of 480 square feet, complete with a conveyor belt to deliver samples from the working deck to the protected environment of the lab, a versatile dry lab of equal size, a hydro/chemistry lab of 260 square feet, a computer lab of 170 square feet, plus an electronics lab of 100 square feet.

The ship has completed sea trials and is back in service tracking marine mammals, collecting plankton, and conducting trawl samples in the Gulf of Mexico. "This is a more capable and very economical substitute for the former Chapman, though the gains of an originally designed fisheries research vessel will be apparent," said Cmdr. Craig McLean, NOAA Corps, commanding officer of the Gunter.

As part of the NOAA fleet of survey and research ships and aircraft, the Gordon Gunter is operated and managed by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers. The NOAA Corps is a uniformed service of the United States, composed of officers – all scientists or engineers -- who provide NOAA with an important blend of operational, management and technical skills that support agency's programs at sea, in the air and ashore. The Gunter primarily supports the work of NOAA Fisheries.