Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2014
Mission Information
 

Thursday: April 24, 2014
Log Day 5

Amy Rath
Outreach and Communications Coordinator
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster in GRNMS.

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster monitoring dive activities for the 2014 expedition in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Do you wonder what it would be like to work aboard a research vessel such as the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster? It takes a well-trained, high-performing team with a refined communication system and a keen understanding of the important roles that they each play. The NOAA Ship Nancy Foster requires a crew of talented people with specialized training to perform marine operations, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and to ensure safe missions at sea. She is operated by 6 commissioned officers, 3 engineering officers, a team of able seafarers, survey and electronics technicians, stewards, general vessel assistants, and a cross-trained medical officer.

NOAA Corps officers ENS Felcia Drummond and ENS Rick de Triquet communicate with dive boats.

NOAA Corps officers ENS Felcia Drummond and ENS Rick de Triquet communicate with dive boats launched from the ship and operating nearby in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Commissioned officers aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster are charged with ensuring safe shipboard operations, including proper planning, navigation, equipment deployment, and execution of emergency procedures, ultimately providing leadership onboard the research platform. These commissioned officers are NOAA Corps officers. NOAA Corps is one of seven federal uniformed services of the United States, operating under NOAA. Professionals entering into NOAA Corps have previously been trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, fisheries science, or other related disciplines and are assigned to positions at-sea, in aviation, or in land-based assignments.

All crew work together on deck to launch dive boats.

All crew work together on deck to launch dive boats.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Of her commissioned officers, the Commanding Officer oversees all operations onboard the ship. Assuming ultimate responsibility, this officer is held accountable for the actions of the crew as a whole. The Executive Officer oversees the engineering, deck, survey and steward departments. In preparation for promotion, this officer holds command in absence of the Commanding Officer and is responsible for managing personnel, budget, grievances, trainings and safety drills. The Operations Officer manages day to day operations, coordinates logistics and scientific operations, and provides research project instructions. As the most direct link to scientists, this officer facilitates communications between scientists and crew members. Junior Officers work to acquire skills and experience necessary to qualify as an 'officer of the deck', ultimately tasking them with the responsibility of an unsupervised bridge-watch. Junior Officers learn and practice all safety procedures, navigation, ship handling, and collision avoidance. While these officers share collateral duties for maintaining the ship and operations, they also serve important individual roles in environmental compliance, as medical officers, and in property and financial management. As the most senior Junior Officer, the Navigation Officer holds responsibility for the safe navigation of the ship by maintaining charts, tools, and publications for navigation.

Survey operatations originate in the ship's 'dry lab'.

Survey operatations originate in the ship's 'dry lab'.
(Photo: GRNMS)

Not all ship-board positions are NOAA Corps officers. The greater majority of roles are filled by NOAA civilian positions in multiple departments, including engineering, deck, survey, and steward departments. Every role on the ship is important, each with its own challenges and rewards, bound together for fluid operations.

The Engineering Department maintains the ship's propulsion and the suite of machinery required onboard for operations, including winches, conveyor systems, hydraulics, and wet lab equipment. All engineers perform maintenance and repair work of engineering, electrical and electronic systems and stand watch of the engine room at sea or in port as required to ensure the safety of the vessel and personnel. The Chief Engineer supervises the engineering department and takes overall responsibility for required activities. A First Engineer provides direction and guidance to other assistant engineers to ensure safe and efficient operations. A Second Engineer keeps records, logs and reports and directs the activities of unlicensed personnel. A Junior Engineer performs duties as assigned and stands security watches. A Wiper cleans and maintains the engine room and engineering spaces, fabricates tools in the machine shop, installs tools where requested, and makes repairs as needed. As a whole, the engineering department serves a critical role on Nancy Foster, as keeping the ship running is a full-time operation.

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster engine room.

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster engine room.
(Photo: Jamie Morris)


A crane operator moves dive boats between the ship and the ocean.

A crane operator moves dive boats between the ship and the ocean.
(Photo:Amy Rath)

The Deck Department is responsible for running cranes, handling lines and weighing anchor in port, and operating oceanographic instruments, trawl nets and rescue boats at sea. A minimum of 3 deck personnel are required onboard by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Chief Boatswain supervises the deck department, assigns work duties and responsibilities, creates schedules, and coordinates with the Executive Officer. The Boatswain Group Leader is responsible for purchasing equipment and supplies, inspecting and maintaining all safety equipment, and coordinating frequent safety drills to keep the skills of the crew proficient. The Boatswain Group Leader also supervises Able Seafarers onboard the ship. Finally, Able Seafarers serve as lookouts, observing the surrounding waters for vessels. In addition to operating, inspecting and maintaining deck equipment, Able Seafarers are responsible for making security rounds of the ship, responding to emergencies, and for recording and detecting patterns in weather observations.

Illustration of multibeam sonar and various bottom type identification camera systems.

Illustration of multibeam sonar and various bottom type identification camera systems.
Click here for a larger image.

In the Survey Department, Survey Technicians serve in a science role and are the primary link between scientists and the crew. Because obtaining information and proper management of data are often the most critical objective of a science mission, a Survey Technician is responsible for maintaining and operating scientific instruments, providing technical assistance, and safeguarding data. Through the use of remote sensing technologies, these technicians are able to survey fish stocks, map the seafloor, identify obstructions and shipwrecks, and detect uncharted or mischarted areas of the ocean. Alongside Survey Technicians, an Electronics Technician maintains electronic instruments and computers, manages data storage, internet technology, and communications systems on the ship, serving an integral role to all other crew and science teams.

A typical meal prepared aboard the ship for crew and scientist.

A typical meal prepared aboard the ship for crew and scientist.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

The steward department is made up of a Chief Steward and a Second Cook. Stewards are central members of a ship's crew. Onboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, the stewards are real morale boosters, energizing and motivating the crew by serving fresh nutritious meals in hearty servings with an appealing presentation.

A General Vessel Assistant may be assigned to the engineering, deck or steward departments and serves in a supporting role for all departments. General Vessel Assistants may be assigned a wide-variety of tasks that serve to build their own knowledge and experience of ship-board duties. This entry-level position is a foot-in-the-door that can lead to development and qualification to become a Second Steward, Junior Engineer, or Able Seafarer.

As you can see, there are many important roles aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, each filled by a talented crew member. Every individual among the crew is respected and appreciated for their valuable contributions. If you've ever heard someone say, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts", this most definitely holds true of the fantastic crew aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.


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