$88M grant allows Oregon State to contract construction of second new research vessel

Oregon State University has received funding from the National Science Foundation to lead construction of a second Regional Class Research Vessel to help bolster the nation’s aging academic research fleet. (OSU)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has contracted construction of a second research vessel to bolster the nation's aging academic fleet.

The National Science Foundation awarded Oregon State a $121.88 million grant last year to build the first of these new Regional Class Research Vessels. The grant was the largest in OSU history.

The vessel will help map the sea floor and conduct research on ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and other global ocean issues.

Now the science foundation has given OSU another $88 million, allowing the university to exercise an option in its contract with Gulf Island Shipyards in Louisiana to build a second, nearly identical research vessel.

The first vessel will begin construction soon. It is scheduled for deliver to Oregon State in spring 2021.

The second vessel will be available sometime after fall 2021, according to Demian Bailey, project co-leader for OSU.

The second research ship will likely be deployed to the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, he said.

The National Science Foundation picked OSU in 2013 to lead design of up to three new vessels.

The new ships will support near-shore research as the United States and other countries face unprecedented challenges to their coastal waters, said Roberta Marinelli, dean of Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, low-oxygen waters or ‘hypoxia,’ sustainable fisheries, and the threat of catastrophic tsunamis are issues not only in the Pacific Northwest, but around the world,” Marinelli said. “These new vessels will provide valuable scientific capacity for better understanding our changing oceans.”

According to Oregon State:

The ships will be equipped to conduct important seafloor mapping, which has become of significant importance following devastating tsunamis triggered by subduction zone earthquakes in Indonesia and Japan. The Pacific Northwest is considered a high-risk region because of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which has produced numerous major earthquakes of magnitude 8.0 or greater over the past 10,000 years.

“This class of ships will enable researchers to work much more safely and efficiently at sea because of better handling and stability, and a suite of advanced sensors for measurements to characterize the atmosphere, ocean water and seafloor,” said Clare Reimers, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and project co-leader.

“They will have real-time data connectivity to shore and more capability for over-the-side operations. The design also has numerous ‘green’ features, including an optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting and variable speed power generation.”

Bailey, the project co-leader, said a full year of testing will be necessary before the new ships will be ready for scientific expeditions.

“It’s not like rolling a new car off the showroom floor,” he said. “With vessels this large and complex, and with an array of scientific instrumentation, inevitably some things will go wrong. It’s an arduous process to go through, but important because these ships will be the most advanced of their kind in the country, and we expect them to be operational for 40 years or longer.”

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