OSU researchers ready a new fleet
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 23:02
Oregon State University has been selected by the National Science Foundation to oversee the design refresh, construction and transition into operation of three new coastal research vessels.
“Oregon State was selected when the NSF put out a request for a proposal to be the lead institution,” said Mark Abbott, dean and professor of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.
“We [OSU] had the best proposal,” Abbott said.
The first vessel is scheduled for delivery in 2019 or 2020. Oregon State is expected to receive the first vessel.
“Its really exciting, a special recognition for OSU,” said Rick Spinrad, OSU’s vice president for research. “I’m proud of the faculty, staff and students that have worked so hard on this proposal, and I’m proud and honored to be a part of it.”
Abbott seconded Spinrad’s excitement about OSU’s selection.
“It puts us in the big leagues, with institutions such as Scripps and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,” Abbott said. “Faculty whose research involves going to sea will want to come here.”
The primary authors of the proposal were Dr. Clare Reimers, professor of oceanography at OSU, and Demian Bailey, OSU’s marine superintendent.
“The proposal was evaluated by NSF and ocean community experts for criteria, such as the efficiency of the vessel and how executable and thought through the plan was,” said Bailey, who will leave his post as marine superintendent to become the project manager.
Reimers, who will serve as the project support office scientist, felt along with the executability of the plan, OSU’s storied history as a ship operator was a major factor in the selection.
When the new vessels go into operation in the late 2010s-early 2020s, OSU’s current vessel, the Oceanus, will be retired, and OSU is scheduled to receive the first of the three new vessels. The other two will most likely be positioned on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States.
The new vessels will have several advantages over the Oceanus and the former OSU vessel, the Wecoma, both of which were built in the mid-1970s.
“The new vessels will automate many scientific equipment and navigation functions that are currently done manually,” Bailey said. “They will have highly accurate dynamic positioning capabilities, and can stay in one part of the ocean with great accuracy.”
The new ships will also be more environmentally friendly than their predecessors. Being green was a key requirement of the proposal.
“Similar to green building technology, there’s green ship technology,” Bailey said. “It was important to incorporate green ship technology as best as we could.”
“They’ll [the new vessels] be more efficient in terms of energy, water, waste and gas emissions than the Wecoma and Oceanus,” Abbott added.
Funding for the project will come in multiple phases, with each new phase dependent on the successful ontime completion of prior phases.
The timeline of the project will span nearly a decade.
“We’re currently in the ‘design refresh’ phase,” Bailey said. “We expect this phase to continue until July 2014.”
The shipyard selection and construction will follow the design refresh phase.
“We wouldn’t start construction until 2016,” Bailey said. “All of this has to align with the federal budget and congressional budget allocation.”
Bailey emphasized how important the selection of OSU by the NSF would be toward the future of OSU as a ship-operating institution.
“If we weren’t the lead institution, we would most likely not be operating a vessel once the current vessel [Oceanus] is retired,” Bailey said. “It was absolutely necessary for OSU to win the proposal in order to stay in the ship operating business.”
OSU is a member of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. According to the UNOLS website, it is a group of 62 academic institutions and national laboratories that take part in oceanographic research, and are “joined for the purpose of coordinating oceanographic ships’ schedules and research facilities.”
The Oceanus is owned by the NSF, as will the new vessel. OSU currently operates the Oceanus and will operate its new vessel as a part of UNOLS.
Vinay Ramakrishnan, news reporter