Safe Harbor For A Tired Ship: Hi’ialakai to call Newport home — for now

The NOAA research ship Hi’ialakai was towed into Newport April 1 after structural issues were found during a routine drydock in California. (Photo by Bret Yager)

NEWPORT — An aging NOAA research vessel out of Hawaii has been towed to Newport, where the 224-foot ship will wait to have its fate decided.

The Hi'ialakai is 35 years old and has seen many chapters in its usage history, including time as a U.S. Navy ship, the medium-endurance Coast Guard cutter Vindicator and most recently an oceanographic research vessel home-ported in Honolulu.

It’s many recent missions have included delving into coral reef ecosystems, the study of fish stocks fish stock and maritime heritage surveys in the western Pacific.

“A number of structural issues were identified during a recent inspection of the ship during a scheduled drydock period at a shipyard in Vallejo, California,” said NOAA spokesman David Hall in response to a media inquiry. “The vessel has been brought to the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific facility where it will remain until a decision is made about its future.”

Tugboats brought the Hi’ialakai to Newport on April 1 from Vallejo.

The Hi‘ialakai was constructed for the Navy in 1984 and served as the U.S. Naval Vessel Vindicator, a  surveillance ship. The vessel then saw use in the Coast Guard, and finally NOAA in 2002, when it was converted into an oceanographic research vessel, Hall said. The ship, whose displacement is 2,285 long tons, was commissioned to the NOAA fleet in 2004.

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