Science and Technology News

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Navy to Build Two New Oceanographic Research Vessels

By Grace Jean, Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va.—The Navy has awarded $70 million to a West Coast-based shipyard to begin building the second of two modern oceanographic research vessels, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced Feb. 9.

Dakota Creek Industries Inc. of Anacortes, Wash., will begin detail design and construction on the Ocean-class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) vessel 28. Naval Sea Systems Command previously awarded a contract for AGOR 27, the first of the two new research ships. The recent award brings the Navy’s combined shipbuilding investments in the program to $145 million.

“The ships are indispensible research tools,” said Dr. Frank Herr, director of ONR’s Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department. “They are the primary means by which we go to sea and engage the oceanographic research community to learn about the ocean—and to develop oceanographic and atmospheric prediction systems to help the fleet understand the ocean, and plan for its operations around the world.”

The Navy, through ONR, has been a leader in building and providing large research ships for the nation’s academic research fleet since World War II. The latest ships will replace two vessels previously Navy-built and owned.

Designed as single-hull ships, AGOR 27 and AGOR 28 are approximately 238-feet long and incorporate the latest technologies, including high-efficiency diesel engines, emissions controls for stack gasses, new information technology tools both for monitoring shipboard systems and for communicating with the world, and hull coatings to reduce maintenance requirements. Each vessel will operate with a crew of 20 with accommodations for 24 scientists.

The construction phase will last 30 to 36 months per ship with delivery expected in late 2014 and early 2015. Once delivered to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, respectively, the ships will allow scientists to continue with ongoing research efforts in the Atlantic, western Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

The U.S. academic research fleet is organized by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), a partnership among research institutions consisting of 16 vessel operators. Federal agencies provide research grants for ocean sciences which in turn support ship operations via day rates charged to research users. The six Navy-owned vessels are among the largest in this fleet enabling global ranging research programs.

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