Gulf Island order leads drive to obtain more data at sea
Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
H.R. Spies, built by All American Marine for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, features Teknicraft’s wave-piercing hull and the latest hydrographic survey equipment. The vessel is now in service in the Corps’ Philadelphia District.

While newbuilds in the research sector during the past year didn’t rise to the scale of USNS Maury, a 353-foot survey ship delivered to the Navy in 2016 by VT Halter Marine, there was activity involving smaller vessels at nearly a dozen North American yards.

The biggest news came in July when Oregon State University announced that it had awarded a contract to Houston-based Gulf Island Fabrication for a 193-foot regional class research vessel (RCRV), with the option to build two more. OSU received a $121 million grant from the National Science Foundation to begin construction, an amount that could rise to as much as $365 million for a three-ship order.

The RCRVs, designed by Glosten of Seattle, will be equipped to conduct detailed seafloor mapping for earthquake research. They also will have advanced sensors to assess harmful algal blooms, changing ocean chemistry and tidal interactions that could be beneficial to wave energy research. High-bandwith satellite communications will enhance the streaming of data and video to shore.

The ships 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.

The first vessel in the series is scheduled for delivery in 2020 and will be operated by OSU for research on the West Coast. The university will retire the 177-foot R/V Oceanus when the newbuild is ready. The National Science Foundation is in the process of selecting institutions to operate the second and third RCRVs, which likely will be based on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

Oregon State University research vessel

Gulf Island Fabrication will build a 193-foot research vessel for Oregon State University, a contract that has an option for two additional boats. The regional class research vessels (RCRVs) will be ABS Ice class C0 and certified by Green Marine.

Courtesy Glosten

In December, Vigor of Seattle delivered another research vessel for the West Coast: the 60-foot Sentinel for California’s Department of Water Resources. The newbuild replaced San Carlos, a venerable R/V that had monitored water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and upper San Francisco Estuary since 1976.

Sentinel is propelled by twin Cummins QSB 6.7 diesel engines, each providing 419 hp for a cruising speed of 20 knots. The Incat Crowther-designed catamaran has a lab area, aft deck work area and three 3,300-pound capacity cranes, one with a direct connection to the lab. It also has a 14-foot work skiff with a 30-hp motor. Sentinel has overnight accommodations for five.

Following the delivery of the hybrid research vessel Spirit of the Sound three years ago, Derecktor Shipyards in May launched sister CUNY I for the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College. Like its predecessor for The Maritime Aquarium of Norfolk (Conn.), the 65-foot catamaran is designed by Incat Crowther and features a BAE diesel-electric HybriDrive system.

Electric power for the all-aluminum vessel is supplied by a set of lithium-ion batteries, with propulsion delivered via articulating drives powered by a pair of electric motors. The system reduces fuel consumption by an estimated 75 percent compared with traditional diesel engines.

CUNY will use the vessel for research in Jamaica Bay and Long Island Sound in collaboration with the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay. A delivery date has not been released.


Sentinel, a new research catamaran from Vigor for California’s Department of Water Resources, transits the San Joaquin River near the Antioch Bridge. The flagship of the fleet was designed by Incat Crowther.

Courtesy California DWR

“Derecktor continues to pursue projects for the construction of further hybrid vessels and hopes to reduce the carbon footprint of the maritime industry one vessel at a time,” the company said in a news release.

In July, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment received an $11 million grant to build a 68-foot oceangoing research vessel. The gift from the Grainger Family Descendants Fund provides $5 million for construction and $6 million for operating costs.

Duke has not selected a shipyard but said the new vessel will be similar to R/V Fulmar, a 65-foot catamaran built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by All American Marine of Bellingham, Wash. Design and construction is expected to take about two years.

The newbuild will have wet and dry labs, an array of oceanographic equipment, and sleeping quarters for researchers. It will be used to train students at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., which has been without a large research vessel since 2014.

Across the Canadian border, Kanter Marine of St. Thomas, Ontario, delivered a 32-foot aluminum catamaran to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Robert C. Shinn Jr. will serve as a research buoy tender and platform for water and sediment sampling in Barnegat Bay and the Sandy Hook-Raritan Bay region.


CUNY I is the second vessel from Derecktor Shipyards of Mamaroneck, N.Y., with BAE’s HybriDrive propulsion, a diesel-electric system that reduces fuel consumption and emissions. The boat also has keel coolers to minimize wastewater discharge.

Courtesy Derecktor Shipyards

Designed by Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architect of Victoria, British Columbia, the boat has a bow ramp and 2-foot draft to enable it to access shallow shore areas. Propulsion is provided by a pair of Evinrude E-TEC 250-hp outboards that deliver a top speed of nearly 35 knots.

Electronics on the boat include a Simrad radar and GPS suite, and a Lowrance Link-8 VHF radio. On deck, a Fassi Micro M25A knuckle-boom crane has the capacity to lift up to 1,100 pounds.

Another Canadian yard tapping the research market in the United States is Meridien Maritime Reparation of Matane, Quebec, which was awarded a contract in January to build a 93-foot boat for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

JMS Naval Architects of Mystic, Conn., provided the blueprint for the vessel, which will replace R/V Bay Eagle in the institute’s fleet. JMS said it designed the boat to operate as an uninspected research vessel with an ABS load line, “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.”

Main propulsion will be provided by a pair of 660-hp Tier 3 diesels coupled to 2:1 gears driving controllable-pitch propellers in nozzles. A 250-hp bowthruster will provide additional maneuverability for the boat, which will have a dynamic positioning system for stationkeeping.

Robert C. Shinn Jr.

Robert C. Shinn Jr. has a landing craft-style bow ramp and shallow draft well suited for operating in New Jersey’s back bays. The latest addition to the state’s water monitoring fleet is from Ontario’s Kanter Marine.

Courtesy N.J. Department of Environmental Protection

Oceanographic outfitting includes wet and dry labs, a 1,000-square-foot main working deck, a stern A-frame, a side-mounted J-frame, an array of trawl winches and a knuckle-boom deck crane with 2,240 pounds of capacity. The boat’s delivery date was not specified.

In late 2016, Moran Iron Works of Onaway, Mich., announced that it had received a contract from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a 57-foot research boat. The vessel will serve the agency’s field office in Green Bay, Wis.

The shipyard said the aluminum newbuild will have twin diesel engines and the necessary equipment to conduct research on the Great Lakes. Moran said it expected to launch the boat at its Port Calcite facility in Rogers City, Mich., in the late summer.

Government activity extended to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which took delivery of a pair of hydrographic survey catamarans in the past year to upgrade the agency’s operations in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

In August, the Corps dedicated the 61-foot Catlett in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Designed and built by Technology Associates of New Orleans, the boat has a pair of 1,000-hp engines that deliver a top speed of more than 38 knots. Additional specifications were not available at press time.


The 61-foot Catlett powers across Baltimore Harbor in front of Fort McHenry. The survey vessel from Technology Associates will replace Linthicum, which has logged nearly 40 years of service in the Baltimore District for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Catlett will replace Linthicum, a survey vessel that has served the Baltimore District since 1978 but will be retired soon. The mission of both boats is to ensure safe navigation in the Port of Baltimore and in dozens of other channels throughout the region by mapping water depths.

In May, the Corps christened the 64-foot H.R. Spies at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia. Designed by Teknicraft and built by All American Marine, the boat’s primary role is to provide channel depth data for the Delaware River, Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

Propulsion for the hydrofoil-assisted catamaran is provided by a pair of Caterpillar C18 Tier 3 diesels delivering a combined 2,002 hp through ZF MGX-5136SC reduction gears turning Michigan Wheel 38.5-inch props. Two Phasor Marine 34-kW gensets provide ship’s service power. The boat’s radar, GPS and AIS are from Furuno.

The hydrographic survey package includes a Reson 7125 deployable strut multibeam transducer, an Odom Echotrac CV300 deployable strut and a Klein 3075 towed sonar unit. “Green” features include LED wheelhouse lighting and International’s Intersleek 900 foul release bottom paint.

Categories: American Ship Review, Maritime News