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1 NOAA RESPONSIBILITIES AND FLEET ACTIVITIES An examination of NOAA Is potential use of chartering for ship services should be based on an identification of NOAA's present and future mission responsibilities. NOAA's existing fleet is configured and located geographically to meet the specific needs of a wide variety of programs in hydrography, fisheries, and oceanographic and atmospheric research including ocean assessment. Chapter 1 examines NOAA's current fleet capabilities and program needs as well as future fleet needs which are based on expected trends in the nation's marine science priorities. PRESENT ACTIVITIES Programs Supported by the NOAA Fleet The NOAA Fleet represents about one-third of the Federal Oceano- graphic Fleet, which is made up of ships operated by the U.S. Navy, the TT ~ ~~ MA the TT ~ bend ^=ir=1 ~~T=`r the Environmental Protec- tion Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the University- National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS). NOAA's support of its mission requirements in hydrography, fisheries, and oceanographic and atmospheric research comprises almost all of the nation's fleet activities in hydrography, atmospheric research, and fisheries stock assessment. : . ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ _} , aid_ Among the programs supported by the fleet are those providing data and information necessary for oceanographic and atmospheric research. These programs include scientific investigations of geological, physi- cal, chemical, and meteorological parameters necessary to assess deep- ocean resources and the effect of the oceans on global weather. The extended range and endurance requirements for these programs usually require support by the larger NOAA ships. NOAA ships recently have been used for a variety of investigations of ocean-atmosphere interac- tions, deep-ocean hydrothermal fluids, estuaries and coastal waters, potential impacts of oil exploration, production, and storage on the outer continental shelf, and levels of toxic chemicals in coastal waters, sediments, fish, and shellfish.
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6 NOAA's hydrographic and bathymetric survey vessels collect data used to produce nautical charts used by foreign and domestic maritime trade, fishermen, and recreational boaters. These vessels are equipped with a variety of launch and ship hydrographic systems, including swath survey systems (SEABEAM) being used to survey the EEZ. Data collected aboard NOAA vessels involved in fisheries resource assessment and research include biological, chemical, and physical oceanographic measurements that are used to assess available living resources and to determine trends in fish population. The multidis- ciplinary nature of these fisheries cruises is fundamental to the holistic approach to fisheries research being undertaken at NOAA. NOAA is also involved in multi-species, ecosystem level fisheries management which is being emulated world wide. These data are provided to the Regional Fisheries Management Councils established by the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976 to assist them in making management decisions. Description and Capabilities of the NOAA Fleet Characteristics and capabilities of the NOAA Fleet are shown in Table 1-1 and in Tables B-1 and B-2 (see Appendix B). Equipment and configuration of the ships vary because they were constructed to perform specific missions in support of diverse program requirements. Deep-ocean oceanic and atmospheric research is now conducted primarily on the Class I ships. Standard shipboard facilities for such research include capabilities for handling a variety of oceanographic and atmospheric sensors and sampling devices and deck equipment necessary to deploy deep-ocean moorings. Capabilities of ships involved in marine environmental quality assessment include obtaining water, sediment, and biological samples in shallow or deep water. NOAA vessels are also equipped with deep- and shallow-water echo sounders, conventional hydrographic survey equipment, and side-scan sonar. Deep-sea and shallow-water sediment samples can be obtained with samplers and corers. The NOAA Fleet also has two types of bathymetric survey systems used to conduct high-resolution multibeam swath surveys of the EEZ. SEABEAM is used to survey areas of the EEZ up to 3,500 meters in depth. The Bathymetric Swath Survey System is used in shallower water. An Intermediate Depth Swath Survey System is under development and will be installed on Class III NOAA vessels in 1988. NOAA ships engaged in fisheries research and resource assessment are equipped for net and long-line sampling in addition to equipment for making relevant physical and chemical oceanographic measurements and for plankton sampling and analyses. In addition to surveys of fish abundance, samples are collected for determination of age, size, and food habits of fish, as well as measurements of hydrography, chloro- phyll, ichthyoplankton, and acoustics.
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7 TABLE 1-1 1987 Composition of the NOAA Fleet Length Date Ship Name (feet) Built Capabilitiesa Home Port Class I Oceanographer 303 1966 GO Seattle, Wash. Discoverer 303 1964 GO Seattle, Wash. Researcher 278 1968 GO Miami, Fla. Surveyor 292 1959 GO,PES Seattle, Wash. Class II Fairweather 231 1967 MC Seattle, Wash. Rainier 231 1967 MC Seattle, Wash. Mt. Mitchell 231 1966 MC Norfolk, Va. Miller Freeman 215 1967 GO,FR Seattle, Wash. Class III Peirce 163 1962 MC Norfolk, Va. Whiting 163 1962 MC Norfolk, Va. McArthur 175 1965 MC Seattle, Wash. Davidson 175 1966 MC Seattle, Wash. Oregon II 170 1967 FR Pascagoula, Miss. Albatross IV 187 1962 FR Woods Hole, Mass. Class IV Townsend Cromwell 163 1963 FR Honolulu, Hawaii David Starr Jordan 171 1964 FR San Diego, Calif. Delaware II 155 1967 FR Woods Hole, Mass. Chapman 127 1979 FR Pascagoula, Miss. Ferrell 133 1968 MC Norfolk, Va. Class V and VI Rude 90 1966 MC Norfolk, Va. Heck 90 1966 MC Norfolk, Va. John N. Cobb 91 1950 FR Seattle, Wash. Murre II 86 1943 FR Juneau, Alaska aGO--general oceanography; PES--precision echo sounding; FR-- fisheries research; MC--mapping and charting. Most NOAA ships are operated by officers of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and a civilian crew. The NOAA Corps is composed of engineers, oceanographers, scientists, and other technically trained professionals who serve aboard NOAA vessels as well as ashore. Other ~ . ~ . vesse personnel include electronics technicians, engineers, survey technicians, skilled fishermen, masters, and yeomen. licensed marine stewards, quarter-
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8 Fleet Support Capabilities NOAA's ships are located geographically based on individual vessel capabilities and specific regional needs. Therefore, the home ports of each vessel and fleet support facilities are located on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. Ships of the NOAA Fleet that operate in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico are administered and supported at NOAA's Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Additional support facilities are located in Miami, Florida; Woods Hole, Massachusetts; and Pascagoula, Mississippi. Ships operating in the Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and the Bering Sea are based at the Pacific Marine Center in Seattle, Washington, with additional ship support facilities in Honolulu, Hawaii; Juneau, Alaska; and San Diego, California. Marine center personnel in the Operations Branch work with the users of the NOAA vessels to provide necessary equipment and to schedule vessel time. They also participate in preparing and reviewing project instructions of tasks to be performed at sea. The marine centers maintain diving equipment and provide assistance in emergency and problem situations during diving operations. They also provid medical support, including Public Health Service physicians. Requirements for and Allocation of Vessel Time NOAA ships provide a significant portion of the ship time available in the Federal Oceanographic Fleet. Based on the 1984 study conducted by the Federal Oceanographic Fleet Coordination Council (FOFCC), NOAA ships account for approximately one-half of the total federal ship days-at-sea for hydrography and charting, one-half of the federal ship time for marine environmental quality assessment, almost all of the federal ship time for global meteorological and climate studies, and all the federal ship time for fisheries research and fish stock assessments. Projected requirements for the NOAA Fleet are estimated 5 years in advance by NOAA programs. These estimated requirements are used to develop a 5-year fleet plan which is updated every year. Ship time requirements, based on program needs and the projected fleet budget, are developed 2 years in advance. The current year Fleet Allocation Plan is developed by a NOAA Fleet working group after the budget has been approved. The current year's plan, which results from program requirements, is greatly affected by congressional appropriations. Total vessel support for NOAA's programs and projects, including NOAA and private vessels, has averaged in excess of 4,800 days-at-sea per annum over the last few years. Of this total, NOAA vessels provided over 4,100 days of service, with the private sector making up the balance. To date, chartering has been conducted primarily by the National Marine Fisheries Service which, in FY 1987, chartered over 700 ship days-at-sea.
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9 In 1987, the NOAA Fleet provided a total of 4,144 ship days-at-sea to support NOAA programs: 608 days-at-sea were provided for oceano- graphic research and global climate studies,-1,884 days-at-sea to sup- port fisheries resource assessment and research, and 1,652 days-at-sea to support hydrography, bathyme try in the EEZ, and marine environmental quality assessments. The NOAA ships Peirce and Mt. Mitchell were inactive during fiscal year (FY) 1987 due to budget limitations. Based on current requirements identified by NOAA program areas, a total of 4,429 ship days-at-sea will be necessary in FY 1988. This level includes 599 days for oceanographic research, 1,987 days for fisheries research, and 1,843 days for hydrographic surveying, bathymetric mapping, and marine environmental assessments. Activities to Maintain the NOAA Fleet It is NOAA's contention that for most of its ships, the maintenance and upgrade program is less costly than new ship construction and that continuation of the maintenance and upgrade program will allow the agency to defer ship retirements. Prior to 1986, five ships were upgraded. In FY 1986, the NOAA ship Oceanographer was reactivated and upgrade activities started on the NOAA ship Discoverer. The Researcher upgrade was started in FY 1987. The average age of the NOAA Fleet is 24 years with a range of 8 to 28 years for steel-hull vessels. Despite the 23-year average age (the oldest average age for any organization's vessels in the Federal Oceano- graphic Fleet), NOAA believes its vessels to be in good condition. The accepted industry standard for the useful life span of an oceanographic research vessel is 30 years, however, NOAA plans to use most of its vessels beyond that life span by continuing a rigorous maintenance and upgrade program. FUTURE TRENDS IN VESSEL USE NOAA's assessment of its vessel needs is dependent on the level of activities projected for the future. Independent of potential bud- getary restraints, NOAA's 5-year plan to meet its major responsibi- lities calls for an increase in vessel use through 1992. Proposing 5,000 days-at-sea through 1990, the NOAA plan (1986-1990) calls for continued emphasis on EEZ work with a recognition that target-of- opportunity efforts and marine fishery assessments cannot be ignored. The reactivation of the Oceanographer responds to the need for increased use of large vessels. The agency's largest unmet require- ments will remain in fisheries, ocean assessments, and global climate research. According to data submitted by agencies identifying their own ship time requirements, the FOFCC report of 1984 (FOFCC, 1984) shows NOAA as having the largest growth in requirements in the future and the largest deficit in ship time available to meet those require- ments based on existing resources. NOAA's estimates indicate that the deficits will continue to increase in NOAA's critical mission areas--
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10 fisheries and ocean assessment; however, they will level off for hydrography and bathymetric surveying. The direction of NOM's effort, however, has been changing. For example, the General Accounting Office in its 1986 review (GAO, 1986) observed a rapid decline in nautical charting, although EEZ surveys were increasing. Fishery studies were being reduced due to deactivation of vessels and programmatic shifts. These shortfalls in vessel availability have, in general, been the result of budgetary restraints and demands that directly impact NOAA vessel uses. The national focus on the global oceans places even greater demands on the existing vessels of the federal fleet. A report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Advisory Council (NASA, 1986) clearly defined the roles of NASA, NOAA' and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and encouraged enhanced coordination among them. Specifically, the report urged a strengthening of NOAA's in situ research program on atmospheric and oceanic processes. Based on NOAA planning documents and conversations with NOAA personnel, a host of global projects along with increased data requirements point to further acceleration of the agency's vessel needs, particularly the larger platforms operated directly by the agency. Use of the NOAA Fleet by the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) is ongoing in support of research programs in Ocean Climate Dynamics, Marine Environmental Quality and Air Quality, Marine Services, Marine Observation and Prediction`, and Marine Resources, as well as the National Sea Grant College Programs. According to NOAA, future research objectives will continue to include understanding the relationship between ecosystem dynamics and the large-scale, air-sea interaction; process-oriented and problem-oriented interdisciplinary studies of forces that drive those ecosystems, research on hazardous marine conditions; and improved environmental data, information, analytic tools, and advisory services to support users in government and private industry. Most OAR cruises involve participation by a variety of federal, academic, and other NOAA and non-NOAA cooperative researchers. Based on NOAA projections and national research priori- ties, these research areas are proposed for continued expansion, requiring more ship time on vessels currently available in the NOAA Fleet. Fisheries research is conducted primarily on the smaller vessels of the NOAA Fleet. In some regions, NOAA ship support to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is supplemented by private chartering, ship time obtained as a part of foreign and domestic cooperative research efforts, and occasional ship time provided by industry. The majority of the NOAA ship days used by NMFS is expended on fisheries resource assessment. The remaining NOAA ship time is used to test and develop fishing gear, to survey marine mammals, and to assess marine environmental quality. The nation's demand for fisheries products is increasing annually with the growing per capita consumption of fish. In some areas maximum use of the fishery resource has almost been achieved A growing need exists for the nation to assess its fisheries resource and conduct innovative research to develop ways of enhancing this resource. At the
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11 same time, the budget allocation for fisheries programs has declined, and vessels for fisheries research are being laid up. Based on fisheries management and other outstanding living resource needs, NMFS cannot meet its mandates via the NOAA Fleet, particularly with the ongoing and proposed deactivations. In the National Ocean Service (NOS), there are programs responsible for collecting data to construct and maintain nautical charts and marine navigation publications. Additionally, NOS collects oceano- graphic data and studies environmental effects caused by hazardous materials spills and other forms of marine pollution. NOS is also responsible for bathymetric and geophysical studies within the U.S. EEZ, an area of rapid expansion. NOAA's 5-year plan has placed strong and increasing emphasis on vessel support to bathymetric and geophy- sical surveying in the EEZ. Initial increases in ship time would occur on the West Coast and later on both coasts (1990s). Single-beam ship hydrography on the East Coast would be reduced to accommodate the EEZ increases. Despite the agency's idealized plans for vessel-time and predicted shortfalls in future vessel availability, budget constraints inevitably will impact on NOAA's efforts to provide adequate vessel support to its programs. It is difficult to envision a situation that would call for a shrinkage in fleet effort since Congress regularly mandates new work. Additionally, other agencies such as the Navy and NSF are expanding their capabilities, recognizing the constant need to upgrade capital facilities. With NOAA, proposed fleet reductions would occur at the expense of major ocean programs. Unfortunately, the vessel needs of different programs are now competing against one another for available ship time. With the expanding requirements for the larger vessels, the tendency is to deactivate smaller ships. The past budget recommendations have focused specifically on the fisheries vessels, proposing to lay up all or most of them. This proposal would virtually eliminate the fisheries capability within the NOAA Fleet. Thus, programs in fisheries may suffer the most unless budget proposals are modified or chartering can supplement ongoing work. SHIP REPLACEMENT NOAA's ability to meet its mission requirements is dependent on its available fleet of vessels. It is difficult to consider issues of vessel availability and chartering needs without examining the condition and future of the existing fleet. The 1984 FOFCC Fleet Study (FOFCC, 1984) projected that 18 NOAA vessels would become obsolete in the 1990s based on a standard 30-year age criterion. Given the time required to plan and build a single new vessel, ship replacement planning must be conducted now for ships to be completed by then. Both the NSF and the Navy have similar obsolescence problems and began their new ship construction plans several years ago. A ship replacement program could be implemented in the following way. NOAA could determine its immediate ship needs based on the mission and condition of its present vessels and then seek direct
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12 appropriation from Congress to implement the replacement schedule. An alternative to a direct appropriation could be to undertake a program of lease-purchase which would avoid the difficulty of obtaining major appropriations and allow for incremental payments over time. Unless aggressive action is taken by NOAA to plan and implement vessel con- struction, chartering may become an option of necessity rather than of choice. FUTURE NATIONAL NEEDS NOAA's fleet capability needs should be considered in the context of national needs for ocean investigation. NOAA's role will be impor- tant particularly in national efforts to pursue global ocean research, coastal oceanography, and the study of estuaries, fisheries resource assessment, and deep sea research. Oceanographic research, from a global perspective, must expand to provide the nation with a synoptic view of the ocean, including its role in climate and ocean producti- vity (NASA, 1986~. Satellite technology, critical to this approach ? must be correlated to the oceangoing capability of a state-of-the-art oceanographic fleet. Already NOAA, NSF, and others have begun to identify initiatives in this area that require large, sophisticated vessels. Additionally, the operators of the fleet have identified the need for high-latitude research including a polar ice capability. A greater understanding of the Arctic and Antarctic regions is critical, though currently limited by vessel capability. Support of coastal oceanography has been recognized as a key problem for 30 years. It is this area of the marine environment from which humankind derives its greatest benefit, but also on which it has the greatest impact. Advances in theory and new abilities to design critical sampling programs can now be coupled with both observations made at sea and satellite imagery to further understand this environment. Ships, however, must be available. The emphasis on estuaries as important and complex ecosystems must be augmented by programs established both in NOAA and other federal agencies to examine nationally significant questions. Economic reliance on fisheries resources makes it imperative that the use of these resources is managed and studied. Understanding of fisheries requires integration of what is known about physical, chemi- cal, and biological characteristics of the marine environment. Reduc- tion of at-sea capabilities will greatly diminish the agency's and the nation's ability to manage its 15 percent of the world's living marine resources. The study of the deep sea has been tremendously enhanced by techno- logical advances in submersibles, such as the ALVIN and other robotic units. The development of complex microcomputer and microelectronic systems and robotics is just beginning to impact undersea research. U.S. commitment to this area of oceanography is critical to maintaining its ability to stay at the cutting edge of oceanographic research. Vessels are required to support such work.
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13 Overall, it appears that the nation's ocean needs are expanding, while capital expenditures for the fleet by NOAA are not keeping step with future or even present requirements.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: