Research/survey vessels

4 Research.1

Will a push for more data on the impacts of climate change lead to a surge in the construction of research vessels? The answer likely hinges on federal money vulnerable to sequestration, so the jury is still out. In the meantime, science has been feeding American yards a steady diet of work.

Leading the list of research newbuilds is the 238-foot Neil Armstrong, built by Dakota Creek Industries of Anacortes, Wash., for the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). The ship was christened in March 2014 and will be delivered to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts in January 2015.
Neil Armstrong will replace R/V Knorr, which is heading for retirement after nearly a half-century of service. The new ship is equipped with the latest acoustic and sensing electronics, along with dynamic positioning and a hull form that diverts bubbles from the sonar area. It also has two cranes, an A-frame and three Markey winches.

The ship’s propellers, right, are variable pitch to help it maintain position in wind and waves. 

Courtesy Gary McGrath/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Neil Armstrong will operate with a crew of 20 with accommodations for 24 scientists, who will use the ship and its assets to collect samples and data from coastal waters and the deep ocean. Neil Armstrong’s sister ship, Sally Ride, was christened in August 2014 at Dakota Creek Industries. It will be operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, with delivery scheduled for mid-2015.

Another West Coast yard, Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles, Wash., delivered the ocean research vessel Coastal Explorer to Coastal Carolina University. The 54-foot aluminum catamaran can accommodate up to 22 passengers and has a cruising range of 500 miles.

Coastal Explorer has 6,000 pounds of lift capacity to deploy buoys and equipment for water and sediment sampling, underwater video and seafloor mapping. It also has a lab with three data acquisition workstations, with two additional workstations on the bridge. 

A worker polishes the hull of Blake at Geo Shipyard in New Iberia, La.

Brian Gauvin

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) upgraded its research fleet when it took delivery of Reuben Lasker from Marinette Marine of Marinette, Wis., in November 2013. The ship’s primary mission is supporting fish, marine mammal and turtle surveys off the West Coast and in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

The 208-foot Lasker is the fifth Oscar Dyson-class ship built for the agency. It is equipped with the latest technology for fisheries and oceanographic research, including advanced navigation systems, acoustic sensors and scientific sampling gear. It also has a dynamic positioning system that allows the ship to be steered along a predetermined track or to be held on fixed coordinates.

Lasker was commissioned in May 2014 and is based in San Diego.

Blake was one of a pair of research catamarans under construction at the yard in the summer of 2014.

Brian Gauvin

In late August, Burger Boat Company of Manitowoc, Wis., known for its work in custom yachts, launched a 78-foot, all-welded steel research vessel for the U.S. Geological Survey. R/V Arcticus will replace the 38-year-old Grayling for marine research on Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

JMS Naval Architects of Mystic, Conn., developed the preliminary blueprint for the new vessel, which will be stationed at the USGS base in Cheboygan, Mich. Arcticus will be involved in trawling, gill-netting and using sound waves to detect fish so researchers can assess their abundance. Delivery was scheduled for fall 2014.

Marinette Marine delivered the 208-foot Rueben Lasker to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the end of 2013. The ship is based in San Diego for Pacific survey work.

Courtesy NOAA

On the East Coast, Derecktor Shipyards of Mamaroneck, N.Y., is building a 65-foot aluminum research catamaran for The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Conn. Spirit of the Sound, designed by Incat Crowther, will be the only research vessel in the country running on hybrid-electric propulsion. 

The system, from Northern Lights of Seattle, will reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 75 percent. Spirit will be virtually silent when operating on electric power for the aquarium’s public “study cruises” on Long Island Sound.

The boat was scheduled for delivery in late summer 2014. It will replace the 40-foot R/V Oceanic, a 34-year-old diesel-powered trawler. 

Arcticus, built by Burger Boat of Wisconsin, embarked on sea trials at the end of September. It will conduct marine research in the Great Lakes for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Courtesy JMS Naval Architects

On the Gulf Coast, Geo Shipyard of New Iberia, La., was scheduled to deliver the 82-foot research catamaran Blake to David Evans and Associates in September. The boat is named for the coast survey steamer famous for completing the first mapping of the Gulf of Mexico.

Blake’s propulsion chain consists of twin 800-hp, Tier 3 Caterpillar C18 mains with ZF gears and propellers. The vessel will be based in Biloxi, Miss., conducting survey assignments in the Gulf for NOAA.

Geo has another catamaran, the 65-foot Trident, under construction for Texas A&M’s Galveston campus. The research and training vessel will be fitted with twin Scania 500-hp engines and ZF gears. 

By Professional Mariner Staff