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Research/survey

Nov 5, 2018 11:45 AM

Push for ocean data stalls in DC, dims future for newbuilds

The research vessel Stanford H. Smith, delivered in late 2017 by Moran Iron Works, is now working the Great Lakes for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency is deploying the vessel to assess the progress of restoration work involving native fish species.

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The research vessel Stanford H. Smith, delivered in late 2017 by Moran Iron Works, is now working the Great Lakes for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency is deploying the vessel to assess the progress of restoration work involving native fish species.

Most scientists concur that climate change is affecting the Earth’s oceans, impacting weather patterns and aquatic species in the process. Prevailing political winds in Washington, however, are not favorable for new federal spending to study the phenomenon, a reality that is likely to dampen the prospects for ship designers and builders in the research sector over the next few years.

The declining number of newbuilds will stand in sharp contrast to what is needed, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. In a study released in October 2017, the institution found that the fleet of research vessels used by the United States to assess climate change is shrinking.

“The decreasing number of global- and ocean-class research vessels is creating a shortfall in the infrastructure required for sampling the global ocean and expanding collection into poorly sampled regions such as the polar seas,” the study said. “Ships require long-term planning and investment, and maintenance of a capable fleet of research vessels is an essential component of the U.S. effort to sustain ocean observing.”

According to the institution, the current 35-vessel research fleet will decrease to 18 to 22 vessels by 2027 unless more ships are built to replace them. Autonomous vessels hold promise, but larger ships “still will be required to deploy and maintain ocean observing platforms,” particularly in polar regions where conditions are often too challenging for smaller craft.

Work is underway in Louisiana on the 193-foot Taani, a regional class research vessel (RCRV) being built by Gulf Island Shipyards for Oregon State University. The second boat in the series will be operated by a consortium led by the University of Rhode Island.

Courtesy Glosten

“Research ships are indispensable to the ocean observing system, providing direct observations and deployments of moored and drifting instruments,” the study said.

While future federal funding for research vessels may be in limbo, projects approved in the recent past continued to pay dividends for naval architects and shipyards in 2018.

In June, Gulf Island Shipyards of Houma, La., announced that it had received an option to build a second regional class research vessel (RCRV) for Oregon State University. The first vessel in the series, one of up to three authorized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to boost the U.S. fleet, is under construction and scheduled for delivery in the spring of 2021.

The 193-foot Taani will be operated by Oregon State for research on the West Coast, with the school retiring the 184-foot R/V Oceanus when the newbuild is ready. The NSF selected Oregon State in 2013 to oversee the design and construction of the new RCRVs, and the National Science Board authorized up to $365 million for the project.

The vessels, designed by Glosten of Seattle, will be ABS Ice class C0 and DPS-1, and they will be Green Marine certified. With a cruising speed of 11.5 knots, they will have a range of 7,000 nautical miles and the ability to stay at sea for at least 21 days. There will be 16 berths for scientists and 13 for crewmembers.

Meridien Maritime Reparation of Quebec launched Virginia in August for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The 93-foot newbuild was designed to operate as an uninspected research vessel with an ABS load line.

Courtesy JMS Naval Architects

In July, the National Science Foundation selected the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium, led by the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, to operate the second RCRV in the series. It will be home-ported at the college’s Narragansett Bay campus. The consortium includes URI, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of New Hampshire School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, and 13 associate members.

The second RCRV will replace R/V Endeavor, a 185-foot ship that URI has operated for more than 40 years. Delivery from Gulf Island is expected in 2021.

Another research school, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, welcomed the launch of the 93-foot R/V Virginia in August. Designed by JMS Naval Architects of Mystic, Conn., and built by Meridien Maritime Reparation of Matane, Quebec, the new vessel is powered by a pair of 660-hp Tier 3 diesels coupled to a two-in/one-out marine gear driving a controllable-pitch propeller in a nozzle.

“This unique arrangement will provide the capability to operate the vessel efficiently on a single propulsion engine when on station or during slow-speed transits,” JMS stated in a news release announcing the launch. “This will reduce overall engine hours and thus reduce the cost of operation and improve fuel efficiency, minimizing its environmental footprint.”

The 32-foot Adel from Armstrong Marine has twin 225-hp inboards and a moon pool in the aft deck for deploying hydrographic equipment.

Courtesy Armstrong Marine

Oceanographic outfitting includes large wet and dry labs; a 1,000-square-foot main working deck; a stern A-frame and a side-mounted J-frame; a pair of trawl net reels and a pair of trawl net winches for bottom surveys; an electric CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) winch; and a knuckle-boom crane with 2,240 pounds of capacity and a 33-foot reach. Virginia has a 250-hp omnidirectional bow thruster and dynamic positioning for station keeping.

“The vessel is easily adaptable to evolving scientific research areas such as offshore oil and gas exploration surveys, wind energy development surveys, environmental impact studies and the servicing of ocean observing systems,” JMS said.

In November 2017, Moran Iron Works of Onaway, Mich., delivered the 57-foot Stanford H. Smith to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The newbuild, which is home-ported in Kewaunee, Wis., allows the agency to “safely complete fish sampling in the wide range of weather conditions” encountered on the Great Lakes. The boat’s capabilities include gill netting, bottom and midwater trawls, and hydroacoustic sampling to measure fish size and numbers.

Propulsion is provided by twin John Deere 6135SFM85 engines that each deliver 500 hp at 1,900 rpm. More than a dozen specialized navigation and research systems are included in the vessel, with the entire electrical system measuring over two miles in length, according to Moran Iron Works.

Sir John Franklin, Canada’s first offshore fisheries science vessel (OFSV), was launched in December at Seaspan Shipyards. The ship was ordered in 2011 as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Courtesy Canadian Coast Guard

To the west in British Columbia, Seaspan Shipyards moved Canada’s oft-delayed National Shipbuilding Strategy ahead a notch in December by launching Sir John Franklin. The 208-foot offshore fisheries science vessel (OFSV), which was ordered in 2011, is the first of three for the Canadian Coast Guard from the Vancouver builder.

The OFSVs were designed by RALion, a joint venture of Vancouver-based Robert Allan Ltd. and Alion Science and Technology of McLean, Va., and Ottawa, Ontario. Franklin’s two sister ships were originally scheduled to launch in 2018, but at press time neither hull had hit the water.

In August, Seaspan acknowledged that Franklin would have portions of its hull re-welded after an inspection uncovered a series of defective joints. Up to 144 feet of welds will be repaired before the ship is delivered to the federal government early next year.

Two notable survey boats for work exclusive of fisheries were delivered in 2018: one by Aluma Marine & Fabrication of Harvey, La., to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and one by Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles, Wash., to an unspecified Israeli engineering company.

The Army Corps commissioned the 61-foot Ewell in May in Norfolk, Va. The foil-assisted aluminum catamaran, designed by Technology Associates Inc. of New Orleans, has a top speed of 32 knots and a draft of just 3 feet, 4 inches. It is owned and operated by the Corps’ Norfolk District.

The 61-foot survey boat Ewell, built by Aluma Marine & Fabrication for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has a top speed of 32 knots courtesy of two MAN 985-hp diesels and HamiltonJet waterjets.

Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Propulsion for Ewell is provided by two MAN V8-1000 Tier 3 engines each delivering 985 horsepower through ZF 500 reduction gears to a pair of HamiltonJet HJ422 waterjets. Two Kohler 20-kW gensets provide auxiliary power.

Deck equipment includes a Morgan Marine knuckle-boom crane and a retractable multibeam survey strut. The electronics suite features Furuno radars, GPS, AIS and a NavNet TZtouch multifunction display. Intersleek 900 hull paint below is complemented by LED house and navigation lighting above. Ewell has a galley, head and two single bunks for crew.

Armstrong Marine’s 32-foot Adel has twin 225-hp diesel inboards for propulsion, along with a 4.5-kW generator, autopilot and fire suppression system in the engine compartment. For crew comfort, there is an air-conditioning unit, cuddy cabin berth, galley and head with a shower.

The boat’s survey package includes a hydraulic A-frame, aluminum davit, computer workstation for three and an aft-deck moon pool for the deployment of underwater equipment. Vibration-dampening mounts and acoustic dampening insulation help ensure accurate hydrographic readings. The boat will be deployed for operations throughout Israel and the Mediterranean.

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