A Senate subcommittee has approved a bill that provides $75 million to complete a new survey vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee has approved the fiscal year 2017 CJS Appropriations Bill, which includes funding for NOAA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill provides $5.7 billion for NOAA, a $33.5 million increase above the fiscal year 2016 budget, and $7.5 billion for NSF, maintaining its fiscal 2016 budget.

NOAA currently has 16 ships in its aging fleet, but that number will dwindle to eight by 2028. To maintain its current oceanographic capacity, NOAA needs to build not one but eight additional vessels in the next two to four years, as construction takes eight to 10 years per ship. These survey vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research and improve ecosystem and fisheries management.

“Those are areas that we want to see stay strong,” said Matthew Paxton, president, Shipbuilders Council of America, Washington, D.C. “There’s a need to maintain our strength in these areas and have a long-term vision for what we want to accomplish.”

The subcommittee also approved $159 million for the design and construction of three regional class research vessels (RCRV) instead of the two RCRVs, as proposed by NSF. By having three RCRVs, the Gulf of Mexico and the East and West coasts will be able to have their own dedicated RCRV to maximize research time in each region.

The NOAA and NSF missions are of significant interest to all members of Congress and is an opportunity to bring in additional support for shipbuilding from non-traditional players, SCA officials said.

Meanwhile, SCA last week announced the recipients of its annual safety awards, which enhance operations and promote safety through recognition and promotion of accident prevention. Through their proactive approaches and dedication to improved safety and health of their employees, the 12 member companies who received awards demonstrated the commitment to employee safety in the shipyard industry, according to SCA.

The group’s member companies are eligible for both the Excellence and Improvement in Safety Awards if they submit the SCA Injury & Illness survey for all four quarters, have zero fatalities throughout the year and if their recordable incidence rate (TRIR) is below the SCA aggregate – 4.59% or if they reduce their year-on-year TRIR by 10 percent or more.

Award Winners in the category of “Excellence in Safety” were BAE Systems Ship Repair – Norfolk; BAE Systems, New Construction Shipyards;
Bollinger Shipyards;
 Detyens Shipyard;
 Fincantieri Marinette Marine; MHI Ship Repair;
 Northeast Ship Repair; and
 Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.