The Hydro-Oceanographic ship NIOM is designed for mapping and scientific monitoring activities. Credit: FINCANTIERI S.p.A.
Fincantieri, an Italian shipbuilding company, secured a contract to construct the new NIOM vessel. Credit: FINCANTIERI S.p.A.
Fincantieri conducted the steel-cutting ceremony for the NIOM ship in December 2023. Credit: FINCANTIERI S.p.A.

The Hydro-Oceanographic ships are being built by Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri for the Italian Navy, to carry out mapping and scientific monitoring activities.

The vessels will also be utilised by the Italian Navy Hydrographic Institute located in Genoa for its initiatives. The institute is designated as the official cartographic body of the state responsible for producing national nautical documentation.

In December 2022, Fincantieri signed a contract with the Secretariat General of Defence and the National Armaments Directorate – Naval Armaments Directorate (NAVARM) to construct the first hydro-oceanographic vessel, named NIOM.

The contract is valued at around €280m ($297.2m) and includes integrated logistics support and temporary services for six years, with a potential extension of four more years.

Project details

The ships are being built as part of the renewal programme for the naval units of the Italian Navy’s hydrographic service, which is part of an innovative European project involving the Italian Ministry of Defence.

The programme involves building one large vessel (NIOM) and two smaller vessels to replace the existing ones in service (Magnaghi, Aretusa and Galatea).

It aims to accommodate more researchers and enable advanced hydrographic data collection and analysis by upgrading the hydrographic fleet.

It will enhance the Ministry of Defence’s skills and capabilities in hydrographic monitoring, climate, and maritime research.

The collaboration with universities and research centres will expedite the sharing and accumulation of knowledge across Europe.

The construction of the three ships is scheduled between 2021 and 2027.

Fincantieri announced the steel-cutting ceremony of the NIOM ship in December 2023.

The ship’s delivery is set for 2026 at the combined shipyard in Riva Trigoso-Muggiano.

Financing for the hydro-oceanographic vessels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed with the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and the Ministry of Defence to support the construction of three navy vessels for use by the Italian Navy Hydrographic Institute, in October 2020.

The EIB will provide €220m ($260.8m) to assist in the construction of the three hydro-oceanographic vessels. The total cost of constructing the three ships is estimated at €444m ($526.3m).

It involves a 25-year loan agreement between the EIB and MEF, as well as a project agreement between the EIB and the Ministry of Defence, all in line with the vessels’ economic life.

Hydro-Oceanographic ship design and features

The NIOM ship features streamlined hull shapes to minimise drag, in addition to using eco-friendly materials in its construction.

Its design and scientific capabilities make it a direct tool for advancing the United Nations’ (UN) sustainable development goals at sea.

The vessels will be built and operated following both the European Union (EU) and International Maritime Organisation regulations and will sail under the flag of the Italian Navy.

The production process supports the company’s commitment to environmental management systems in sustainability, demonstrated by ISO 14001 compliance at all Italian sites within the group.

The vessels will be classified by a globally recognised classification society that is a member of the International Association of Classification Societies.


The NIOM ship integrates emission-containment technologies and a diesel-electric propulsion system for fuel efficiency.

Applications of the hydro-oceanographic ships

The three vessels will primarily conduct public service tasks, such as climate research in the ocean and ensuring navigation safety by mapping the seabed to create official nautical charts for Italy’s maritime areas.

The NIOM will focus on hydrographic and oceanographic research in the Mediterranean Sea, the world’s oceans and the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

The two smaller ships NIOC1 and NIOC2 are primarily designed for use in the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent areas.

The ships will join the Navy’s Hydrographic and Test Squadron, Comsquaidro, to assist in conducting surveys for updating the state’s official maps.

Approximately 200 military oceanography experts are collaborating with the Italian Navy Hydrographic Institute on research aboard hydrographic vessels, utilising state-of-the-art instruments.