NOAA has announced the deployment of a new state-of-the-art research vessel, R/V Bay Hydro II, which will collect oceanographic data in the Chesapeake Bay region – data critical to safe navigation and environmental protection in the nation’s largest estuary. The dedication took place in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, featuring a ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle over the bow and a cannon salute from the USS Constellation. “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.” Information collected by the vessel will be used to update NOAA nautical charts and help coastal managers, biologists, planners and policymakers better understand the Chesapeake Bay, which is a major transportation artery in the U.S.’s maritime transportation system. The Chesapeake provides access to four of the nation’s busiest commercial seaports in cargo volume: Hampton Roads, Va., (14th), Baltimore (18th), Philadelphia (24th), and Wilmington, Del. (59th).These seaports link to major rail and interstate hubs, which allow for delivery of manufactured goods, petroleum and coal to the interior regions of the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast. “The R/V Bay Hydro II and NOAA’s other survey vessels are critical to seaports like Baltimore,” said Captain 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, including its islands and tidal wetlands, spans over 11,600 miles — more shoreline than the West Coast of the United States. R/V Bay Hydro II’s mission is critical to ensuring commercial ships and recreational boaters can safely travel to and from mid-Atlantic ports, marinas and docks. “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.” R/V Bay Hydro II also will serve as a hydrographic emergency response unit in the Chesapeake, equipped to provide emergency survey assistance following an Atlantic hurricane or shipping accident that threatens the normal flow of maritime commerce. Delays in shipping costs the economy billions of dollars each year and prevents supplies from being delivered to hard-hit regions. R/V Bay Hydro II, three large NOAA survey ships, and six mobile navigation response boats comprise NOAA’s hydrographic fleet. More information about R/V Bay Hydro II and other survey platforms may be found on NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Web site.