It took more than nine years, but Canada has taken delivery of the first ship constructed under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. The trailblazer is CCGS Sir John Franklin, a 208-foot offshore fisheries science vessel (OFSV) that will be followed by two sisters from Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards.

The new ship, delivered in late June, will serve as a research platform for scientists from the Canadian Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The design by Seaspan includes advanced trawls, wet and dry labs, and a deployable drop keel. The ship will conduct fishing and acoustic surveys to assess marine populations “and the impacts of human activity on fisheries resources and ecosystem health,” according to the Canadian Coast Guard.

The ship did not have an auspicious beginning. Named for the 19th-century British explorer who led an ill-fated expedition to find the Northwest Passage, Canada’s first OFSV underwent design changes in 2012 after engineers discovered that the ship might be prone to capsizing in heavy seas. The overall length was extended by nearly 28 feet, increasing the ship’s displacement by 610 metric tons.

“We immediately set to work with our customer to correct the problem well ahead of the project’s production design phase,” Seaspan said in a prepared statement at the time. “The outcome proved the value of collaboration with the Coast Guard.”

In 2015, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it believed the ship would never be in danger of capsizing due to its initial design characteristics.

Resolution is the second regional class research vessel (RCRV) being constructed with funding from the National Science Foundation. Upon delivery in 2022, it will be operated by an oceanographic consortium led by the University of Rhode Island.

Artist’s rendering courtesy Glosten

“Weight and stability are checked at every stage of the process,” the department said. “The design was stable and met the requirements set forth under shipbuilding regulations from Lloyd’s, our third-party regulator. The design was adjusted as engineering proceeded from the basic full design to a blueprint for a fully equipped ship.”

In August 2018, eight months after Sir John Franklin was launched, portions of the ship’s hull were rewelded due to defective joints. During sea trials in March 2019, the OFSV reversed into a breakwater in Ogden Point, British Columbia, damaging the ship’s rudder, propeller and port stern quarter. It was repaired using parts from OFSV 3, the future John Cabot.

Sir John Franklin was dedicated in late August at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia, which will serve as the ship’s home port. OFSV 2, the future Capt. Jacques Cartier, was launched in June and will undergo sea trials this fall. John Cabot was scheduled to be structurally complete by the end of the summer, according to Seaspan.

All three OFSVs, built on a project budget of 687 million Canadian dollars ($519 million), will have diesel-electric propulsion systems and a top speed of 13 knots. They are replacing the Canadian Coast Guard ships Teleost, Alfred Needler and the decommissioned W.E. Ricker.

The 42-foot catamaran Bob and Betty Beyster from Armstrong Marine USA will serve the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The boat has a dynamic positioning system for precise control during research deployments.

Armstrong Marine USA

In the United States, government-backed work in the research/survey sector advanced in November 2018 with a keel-laying ceremony for the nation’s first regional class research vessel (RCRV) at Gulf Island Shipyards in Houma, La. The 199-foot Taani, a word used by the Siletz Indians meaning “offshore,” is scheduled for delivery to Oregon State University in the spring of 2021.

Oregon State is managing the design and construction of three RCRVs for the National Science Foundation, with as much as $365 million authorized for the project. In May, Gulf Island laid the keel for the second vessel in the class, Resolution, which will be operated by an oceanographic consortium led by the University of Rhode Island. Delivery is scheduled for January 2022. Construction of the third RCRV is slated to begin in November 2019, with delivery in mid-2022. It will be operated by the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).

Taani will operate primarily in the Pacific Ocean, Resolution primarily in the Atlantic, and RCRV 3 in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the southeast Atlantic. The ships will have a cruising speed of 11 knots, a maximum speed of 13 knots and a range of more than 5,000 nautical miles. There will be berths aboard each for 16 scientists and 13 crewmembers. Under normal operating conditions, the ships will be able to stay out to sea for 21 days before returning to port for fuel and supplies.

According to Seattle-based designer Glosten, the RCRVs will have diesel-electric propulsion, twin z-drives and twin bow thrusters. In addition to flexible laboratory spaces, each ship will be equipped with a suite of over-the-side handling gear including an articulated A-frame aft; a main crane capable of reaching the entire aft deck; a CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) launch and recovery system; a below-deck oceanographic traction winch; and a hydrographic winch on the main deck. Electronic equipment will include multibeam sonars, fisheries sonars and an acoustic Doppler current profiler.

Armstrong Marine’s deliveries in the past year included the 40-foot Nanuq to the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Armstrong Marine USA

“This new class of modern vessels will support future research focused on the physical, chemical, biological and geologic processes in coastal waters,” said Roberta Marinelli, dean of Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. “This research is critical to informing strategies for coastal resilience, food security and hazard mitigation not only in the Pacific Northwest, but around the world.”

With the political winds in Washington blowing against oceanographic and climate-change research, prospects aren’t favorable for additional federal funding for newbuilds in the sector. Activity continued on projects already in the pipeline, however, for state and academic entities.

The most notable delivery on this front was the 93-foot Virginia, the new flagship of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Designed by JMS Naval Architects and constructed by Meridien Maritime Reparation of Matane, Quebec, the purpose-built vessel will greatly expand the institute’s research capabilities in Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic. Virginia replaces the converted crew boat Bay Eagle at the head of the fleet.  

Other new deliveries in the sector were paced by Armstrong Marine USA, which completed research vessels for customers from San Diego to Alaska. The shipyard in Port Angeles, Wash., is an established aluminum builder that has found a niche in oceanographic work.

In February, Armstrong delivered the 42-foot Bob and Betty Beyster to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. Construction of the vessel was supported by a variety of donors in honor of the late Dr. J. Robert Beyster, founder of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), and his widow, Betty.

Armstrong Marine also delivered the 38-foot Sentry to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Armstrong Marine USA

The catamaran is propelled by a pair of Volvo Penta D11 engines delivering a combined 1,020 horsepower through Volvo Penta IPS drives. Beyster has a cruising speed of 25 knots, a top speed of 37 knots and a range of 500 nautical miles. It can accommodate six scientists and a boat operator.

The vessel’s scientific equipment includes a seafloor mapping system, a knuckle-boom crane for deploying autonomous vehicles, a stern A-frame with hydraulic hoist, and a hull-mounted transducer for underwater communications. A dynamic positioning system integrates GPS data with propulsion controls to automatically maintain heading and position, enabling precise control of remotely operated vehicles.

In June, Armstrong delivered Sentry, a 38-foot dive compliance vessel, to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The boat, which will also serve as an enforcement tool, is customized to serve DNR divers monitoring geoduck stock and habitat. It has a 4-foot dive platform, tank racks, and aft deck shower and custom dive ladder. The heated walk-around cabin is outfitted with six Bentley’s seats with heavy-duty suspension bases to accommodate captain and crew.

Two Cummins QSB6.7 engines deliver a combined 850 hp for a cruising speed of 24 knots and a pursuit speed of 30 knots. An IMTRA bow thruster, Bennett electric trim tabs, Teleflex SeaStar steering and a Garmin electronics suite with autopilot complete the propulsion and navigation package.

Moving farther north, the Washington builder delivered the 40-foot Nanuq in July to the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The aluminum monohull is customized for research and teaching operations from its home port of Seward.

New York City’s DEP has a new pair of shoreline survey boats by way of Louisiana’s Aluma Marine. The 30-foot monohulls can be reconfigured for firefighting or police work if necessary.

Courtesy Aluma Marine

Twin Volvo Penta D6 inboards, each delivering 330 hp, are paired with Aquamatic outdrives to provide a cruising speed of 28 to 32 knots. A Side-Power electric bow thruster and an aft deck joystick station give operators added control during research operations. A Northern Lights 5-kW diesel generator provides auxiliary power. In the wheelhouse, a Garmin/NMEA electronics package is supplemented with a Furuno SC70 satellite compass.

Nanuq has overnight accommodations for five, a full-service galley and a head. Deck equipment for deploying fishing and oceanographic gear includes a hydraulic A-frame, a davit with a Kinematics pinch hauler, and a stowable dive ladder.
“The boat performed beyond the scientists’ expectations,” said Capt. Brian Mullaly after Nanuq’s maiden 11-day voyage in and around Prince William Sound. “Our work had us out in the Gulf of Alaska, but when weather shifted, we were able to travel with ease and quickness to the sound. The boat handled well in rough conditions.”

Aluma Marine of Harvey, La., got in on the newbuild action over the summer with the delivery of two shoreline survey boats to New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection. The 30-foot Sea Robin and Tide Runner, which will support the Harbor Monitoring Program across the city’s five boroughs, also can be reconfigured for firefighting and law enforcement.

The all-welded aluminum boats are powered by twin 250-hp four-stroke Honda outboards that delivered a top speed of nearly 48 knots during factory sea trials. A Northern Lights 9-kW generator covers power for heating and air conditioning, and each boat also has a Norcold refrigerator.

The Furuno electronics suite includes 36-mile radar, chartplotter, GPS and depth sounder. Icom VHF radios and a Whelen siren/public address system anchor the communications package.

By Professional Mariner Staff