Three 28’ aluminum hydrographic survey vessels will be built by Willard Marine, Anaheim, Calif., under a new contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The boats are a new, updated iteration of a well-proven design originally from SeaArk Marine Inc., Monticello, Ark., that Willard has licensed.

The Hydrographic Survey Launch Ships (HSLs) will operate on coastal waters of the United States, conducting oceanographic surveys with hull-mounted and towed sonar units. Outfitted to support traditional crewed survey operations, the boats will also be capable of supporting survey work using unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs), remotely operated probes that are taking a bigger role in oceanographic work.

The boats will be powered by Cummins QSC8.3 engines rated at 510 hp with a ZF Marine 305-2 transmission. The launches are to be delivered in fall 2016, and will operate off two large NOAA survey ships: two from the 208'x45'x13' Thomas Jefferson, and another with the 231'x42'x14.3' Rainier.

The ships’ mission is conducting hydrographic surveys for the primary purpose of updating NOAA nautical charts, instrumental to all sectors of the U.S. maritime industry.

“NOAA has been procuring fiberglass SOLAS rescue boats from Willard Marine since 2004, and we are proud to continue serving them with larger, aluminum survey ships to support their very important charting responsibilities,” said Ulrich Gottschling, president of Willard Marine.

The survey launches are derived from a 28’ design originally drawn by SeaArk, a longtime producer of commercial and military workboats. Willard Marine acquired licensing rights to SeaArk designs in the 28’ to 65’ range in late 2014.

Founded by the McClendon family in 1959, SeaArk sold about 7,000 vessels worldwide, but its military and industrial boat-building division was hit hard by the post-2008 recession and closed in 2012.

With the licensing, Willard acquired rights to SeaArk’s Commander and Dauntless aluminum designs that serve as platforms for work and patrol vessels, and began merging those data sheets and photo images into its marketing in the first quarter of 2015.