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Utility Navigation

Marine Operations

Project Planning

Below is an overview and estimated timeline for planning and executing a research project aboard a NOAA ship. Projects are most often organized and funded via NOAA Line Offices (LO). Projects that are organized and funded via non NOAA agencies (with some or no NOAA collaboration) are also part of the planning process but done on a case by case basis.

Requesting Ship Time

Project requirements are captured in a formal ship time request (STR) and submitted via the on-line NOAA Vessel Prioritization, Allocation, and Scheduling System (V-PASS) (NOAA login and password required). Additional project elements (i.e., “piggyback” projects) may be added as long as it doesn't interfere with the primary project. Piggyback projects should be coordinated through the Chief Scientist of the primary project, included in the STR, and fully described in the project instructions. The STR then goes through two levels of LO approval before reaching the OMAO Scheduler. The STRs are also reviewed and verified by the Atlantic, Pacific, and Pacific Islands Marine Operation Centers (MOCs) to ensure the preferred NOAA vessel can do the operational work requested. MOC verification is completed by end of March or early April.

By mid-March, LOs have completed their project prioritization lists for the upcoming fiscal year. Those same approved and prioritized project requirements are sent to the OMAO Scheduler by the end of March or early April (the outyear requests are not approved but used for planning purposes only). An executive session of NOAA's Deputy Assistant Administrators (DAAs) convenes on or about late March of each year to accept or adjust current LO allocation percentages, present their initial priority lists and determine LO distribution for ship time requirements from a special reserved funding pool (i.e., 5% pool). This information along with other details are then used by the Fleet Working Group (FWG) and the OMAO Scheduler to develop a Fleet Allocation Plan (FAP) that will be signed by the Fleet Council in late July. A first outyear draft FAP is completed a few months later for planning purposes.

The NOAA Fleet Council is the principal advisory body to the Under Secretary for ship and aircraft platform scheduling, requirements and utilization. Fleet Council membership includes LO DAAs, PPI and is chaired by OMAO. The FWG consists of representatives from all NOAA LOs (i.e., NOAA Fisheries, National Ocean Service, NOAA Research, National Weather Service, NOAA Satellite and Information Service, and NOAA Office of Program Planning and Integration) and is facilitated by OMAO. More information about the NOAA Fleet Council may be found in the NOAA Fleet Council Terms of Reference.

For additional information pertaining to requesting ship time (NOAA fleet & charter), prioritization, allocation, scheduling or V-PASS contact the OMAO Scheduler at (301) 713-7657.

Suggested Timeline

The basic timeline for preparation and submission of project instructions and related materials, in days or months prior to project, is as follows:

  • 7 Months: Foreign exclusive economic zone (EEZ) clearance requests and project prospectus (if necessary) submitted to the Marine Operations point of contact, Wendy Bradfield-Smith (757-441-6172).
    • It is the chief scientist's responsibility to initiate the requests for clearances for ports of call and for scientific investigations in foreign waters. Most countries require at least a six (6) month notice, and the State Department likes an extra month to get their required paper work together. 

    • A project prospectus includes: project description, trackline of the working area, and if radioactive materials are to be used

    • For information on technology controls, foreign national visitor access, and other "Deemed Export" issues, visit the NOAA Deemed Exports Technology Control Program website.

  • 90 Days: Draft project instructions are completed and submitted to the ship, marine centers, labs, and other participating institutions and personnel for comments. 
  • 30 Days:
  • 14 Days:
    • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for hazardous materials (HAZMAT) required as per specifications in the project instructions, are submitted to the ship by the chief scientist.
    • Berthing plan, prepared by the chief scientist for the scientific complement, is submitted to the ship.
  • Day Before Departure: Passports (if operations are abroad) for each project participant are submitted to the ship's Executive Officer (XO).
  • Day of Departure:
    • Inventory of project HAZMAT loaded aboard is submitted to the ship's environmental compliance officer by the chief scientist.
    • Copies of approved EEZ research clearances are submitted to ship's operations officer.
    • Pre-project meeting is held between ship's officers and the chief scientist.
    • "Welcome aboard" meeting is held for all newly embarked scientific personnel.
  • Post-Project 
    • Provide your candid ratings and comments on how the ship met your scientific objectives.

You are here: https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/marine-operations/project-planning
Reviewed: February 21, 2017. Contact us with page issues.

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