Search for a home port

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JAN. 22 — A Rhode Island town is being considered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to be the homeport of the country’s first federal ship dedicated solely to ocean exploration.

The Davisville section of Quonset Point, R.I., could soon be home to the Okeanos Explorer, a former Navy surveillance ship, according to a NOAA press release. The ship, which is being converted and outfitted with research equipment will conduct research and discovery expeditions for NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration.

“Okeanos Explorer will break the mold for the way the nation conducts at-sea research in the future,” retired Navy vice admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. says in the press release. The vessel’s crew will use deepwater remote-operated vehicles and real-time data transmissions to help map the floors of the oceans — 95 percent of which are still unexplored, according to the release.

Quonset Point was chosen because of its proximity to a number of labs and universities associated with the vessel’s mission, according to the release. The site is also close to where a new telecommunications center will be constructed. The center will be the “ocean’s equivalent to NASA’s space command center in Houston,” NOAA says.

Following an environmental assessment of the area, NOAA officials are expected to make their decision about using the Quonset Point/Davisville site sometime this spring, the release says.

“It would be very fitting for the OceanState to serve as homeport for the first NOAA ship focused exclusively on ocean exploration,” rear admiral Samuel P. De Bow Jr. says in the release.”

Jason Fell