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Army Corps Of Engineers Welcomes New Survey Vessel Home

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Port of Baltimore pumps billions of dollar into the state's economy every year.

Alex DeMetrick reports, to keep that money coming in takes year-round surveys under the water.

The Army Corps of Engineers spends a lot of time on the water, surveying over 100 underwater shipping channels.

Only now it's doing it with a new boat named the "Catlett."

Twin hulled with two 1,000 horsepower engines, it's built for maneuverability and speed.

"This vessel has a cruising speed of right around 33 knots, so we can get down to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in about four, four-and-a-half hours," says Capt. Ryan Schuman.

For 42 years, the boat the corps had been using took all day to make that trip.

Increased speed buys more time for the Catlett's crew to do sonar surveys, making sure channels dredged out of the bay's bottom are wide and deep enough for ships to make it into Baltimore.

"We're basically sending out sonar pings from the ship all the way down to the bottom and back up," says Andrew Payson. "We measure the return time that takes, and that tells us how far away it is. So basically we're measuring the depth by that."

The vessel is named after Harold Catlett, whose' four decades surveying the bay ended with his sudden death three years ago.

"He was definitely a mentor," says Brian Retz. "All of us, if we had a problem, we'd go to him and he'd help solve it."

The new survey boat's home port will be at Fort McHenry.

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