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NOAA Small Boat Program

Housed within the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), the NOAA Small Boat Program (SBP) ensures that the agency’s small boats, defined as any vessel which is less than 300 gross registered tons displacement, meet or exceed all applicable regulatory and industry standards for safety, construction, and operation.

Through comprehensive inspections and training programs, the SBP provides guidance tailored specifically to the unique missions of the fleet. In addition, the SBP provides technical expertise in the design and acquisition of new vessels, assists with contracting repairs and modifications for existing platforms, administers vessel inspections, and conducts training on vessel inspections and maintenance.

While small boats are owned and operated by one of NOAA’s line offices (LOs), administrative oversight, engineering support, and inspections are directed by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations via the Small Boat Program, which works with subject matter experts from the LOs to develop safety and operational guidelines for its vessels and operators. Designated Vessel Operations Coordinators at each unit oversee the day-to-day operations of the boats and crews and work closely with LO Small Boat Officers and Program Managers to carry out safe and effective small boat operations in compliance with all safety and environmental policies.

The SBP is located at the NOAA Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington, and is staffed with a Program Manager, Executive Officer, Inspection Coordinator, Engineering Coordinator, and Training Coordinator. The SBP develops and implements policies for the safe operation and maintenance of NOAA’s small boats in coordination with the NOAA Small Boat Safety Board (SBSB).

The SBSB is an advisory panel and made up of representatives from each Line and program office, NOAA’s Safety and Environmental Compliance Office, and NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement. The SBSB is responsible for reviewing, revising, and approving all policies, standards, and operating procedures pertaining to the agency’s small boats.

The SBP continues to develop fleet-wide metrics that support vessel manager needs and inform NOAA leadership of the value and challenges of small boat operations. The SBP relies on these summary metrics, and associated databases, to develop effective policy, focus resources to areas of elevated risk and customize products and services for the NOAA Small Boat community.

NOAA's small boats are operated by NOAA Corps officers, civilian federal employees (including NOAA professional mariners), and contractors. (To learn about NOAA career opportunities, click here.) 

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