NOAA Ship Ferrel

NOAA Ship Ferrel was decommissioned on November 21, 2002, and is no longer in service. This page is no longer being updated.

NOAA Ship Ferrel

At 133 feet in length and displacing more than 450 tons, NOAA Ship Ferrel, was originally constructed to conduct tide and current surveys. In the mid-1980s, the vessel was converted to carry out coastal and estuarine research. Modified from the design for a boat that supplies offshore oil rigs, the Ferrel had twin screws and a bowthruster. These features greatly improved both the ship’s stability and maneuverability. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, the Ferrel worked throughout the year on projects along the coastal and inshore waters of the East and Gulf Coasts.

Commisioned in June 1968, the Ferrel had an endurance of nine days at sea and a range of 1,200 nautical miles with a cruising speed of 10 knots. The Ferrel carried a complement of three officers, eight crew members, and up to eight scientists.

Science and Research Support

The bowthruster, a special feature of the Ferrel, increases the maneuverability and stability and of the vessel.

The bowthruster, a special feature of the Ferrel, increases the maneuverability and stability and of the vessel.

Outfitted as a multi-purpose platform for coastal oceanographic research, the Ferrel was equipped with both wet and dry laboratory spaces. These facilities allowed the Ferrel to adapt to many different types of oceanographic research, including trawling, water sampling, bottom sampling, and geologic and bathymetric imaging surveys. The wet oceanographic lab had flowing fresh water and seawater with room to process and analyze samples collected during operations.

Though most scientific parties provided their own equipment, the dry oceanographic lab on the Ferrel was housed a standard suite of electronics. These included a microcomputer, two systems for the analysis of conductivity and temperature at depth (CTD), fish-finding and survey-quality sonar systems, and a digital global positioning satellite (DGPS) data stream. Sidescan sonar and hydrographic data acquisition systems were also available for benthic (ocean bottom) exploration. The Ferrel also had the flexibility to carry and deploy as many as four different launches, ranging from a small inflatable boat for diving to a 23-foot diesel outdrive aluminum vessel.

To conduct over-the-side operations, the various instruments used in the Ferrel’s work were prepared and deployed through the combination of a large open fantail, an aft-mounted crane, a trawl winch, and a moveable A-frame, as well as a davit arm and oceanographic winch located midships.

The Ferrel also had a valuable asset in its crew. The permanent crew members were experienced in deck machinery, research operations, project planning, surveying, and research diving and assist with every scientific project. Several crew members were certified NOAA research divers who made more than 400 dives. An onboard dive compressor, 20 scuba tanks, six nitrox (enriched air) tanks, and various dive tools provided the capability for a variety of underwater activities that would not be possible with over-the-side techniques.

Navigation and Communications

The Ferrel relied on the most advanced technologies available for navigation and communication. In addition to nautical charts to determine the ship’s whereabouts, the ship utilized sophisticated navigation and communication electronics, including DGPS and LORAN-C navigation receivers, X-Band and S-Band radar systems, a gyrocompass, gyro steering, and depth sounders. VHF and HF radios, hand-held VHF radios, cellular and Skycell phones, and e-mail were used by scientists and the crew to communicate with other vessels and shore-based operations.


To learn more:

NOAA Ship Ferrel, NOAA Marine Operations Center