R/V Bay Hydro II, a NOAA research ship

NOAA Christens New Ship to Survey Chesapeake Bay's Seafloor

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration christened a new research ship, the R/V Bay Hydro II, last week. NOAA says oceanographic data the vessel gathers in the Chesapeake Bay region will be critical to safe navigation and environmental protection of the nation's largest estuary, which has been a top priority for the federal and state governments affected by the estuary for many years. The Bay Hydro II was dedicated in Baltimore's Inner Harbor with a cannon salute from the USS Constellation docked there.

"R/V Bay Hydro II serves as NOAA's 'eyes' to the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay," said Mary Glackin, deputy under secretary for oceans and atmosphere. "Since human eyes can't see to the seafloor, R/V Bay Hydro II's state-of-the-art equipment ensures NOAA can continue providing the nation with timely and accurate charts and quality science." The new ship and other NOAA survey vessels "are critical to seaports like Baltimore," said Capt. Eric Nielsen, president of the Association of Maryland Pilots. "On short notice, they can determine if obstructions caused by hurricanes, ice, or sunken vessels are blocking the shipping channels. Failure to quickly determine channel status would hamper and/or suspend deep-draft navigation service to the Port of Baltimore."

The bay's shoreline is some 11,600 miles long in all -- more shoreline, NOAA notes, than the West Coast of the United States. "The data collected by vessels like the R/V Bay Hydro II is essential to our dredged material management program, ensuring that we can keep the channels safe for ships to journey to and from the Port of Baltimore," said Frank Hamons, deputy director for harbor development for the Maryland Port Administration. "Information collected by this vessel will allow us to continue serving two-thirds of U.S. consumers and remain one of Maryland's key economic generators."

Ports that rely on Chesapeake Bay access and their national rank among all ports in cargo volume are Hampton Roads, Va. (14th), Baltimore (18th), Philadelphia (24th), and Wilmington, Del. (59th).

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