The institute has a sanctioned strength of 200 scientists and 100 technical support staff. The major research areas include the four traditional branches of oceanography - biological, chemical, geological/geophysical, and physical – as well as ocean engineering, marine instrumentation and marine archaeology.
The institute has numerous state-of-the-art laboratories at its headquarters in Goa as well as the regional centres. It also operates two research vessels RV Sindhu Sankalp (56 m) and RV Sindhu Sadhana (80 m) that are equipped for multidisciplinary oceanographic observations. The institute has a library with 15,000 books and 20,000 back volumes of research journals, making it the best collection of printed literature on ocean sciences in the country.
In addition to basic research, the institute also carries out applied research sponsored by the industry. These studies include oceanographic data collection, environmental impact assessment, and modelling to predict environmental impact. The institute also provides consultancy on a number of issues including marine environmental protection and coastal zone regulations.
With the largest collection of ocean scientists in the country, and equipped with suitable ocean research infrastructure, CSIR-NIO serves as an advanced centre of education in ocean sciences. It has a School of Oceanography under the Academy of Scientific & Innovative Research (AcSIR). In addition, it is a recognized centre for doctoral research by a large number of universities. There are at present over 100 Junior/Senior Research Fellows (qualified through CSIR/UGC eligibility criterion) pursuing their doctoral studies in the institute. In addition, about 300 undergraduate and postgraduate students pursue their project research at this institute every year.