'We would've been ship-less': Oregon State puts NSF money to work on new research vessels

Oregon State University was chosen by the National Science Foundation to pace the way for the nation’s research ships. (SBG)

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University was chosen by the National Science Foundation to pave the way for the nation’s research ships.

OSU recently received $88 million to guide construction of a 200-foot research vessel to study the ocean.

Our country’s current academic research fleet is aging. Some of these ships date back to nearly half of a century. That’s why OSU is working with researchers around the world to bring us more answers about our oceans.

“The ship that we have was built in 1975 and is nearing the end of her life,” Demian Bailey, project manager, says.

He says the ship OSU uses for oceanic research is like driving an old car without power steering.

“We would've been ship-less for the first time in 60 years,” Bailey says.

But that’s no longer the reality; in fact, the reality is much brighter. OSU is being funded by the National Science Foundation to modernize America’s Regional Research Vessels.

“The great things about these ships is that we're able to do just about anything,” Bailey says.

The 200-foot vessel will take samples from the ocean floor and send back data in real time – a new convenience for scientists.

“Less than 5 percent of the ocean bottom has been mapped. We don't necessarily even know what's out there,” Bailey says.

The new OSU ship will launch out of Newport, but it doesn’t stop there. OSU plans to build three ships located in Newport, the Gulf Coast and the East Coast. Currently, they’re constructing the second ship that’s nearly identical to the first.

“They'll be able to go out and look at underwater volcanos; they'll be able to go out and they will be able to map the ocean and chart quality data,” Bailey says.

Researchers have been studying the ocean for decades, but now they’ll have the tools to do so.

“I mean, so, there's a lot of push to kind of build the next generation of scientists going to sea,” Bailey says.

The ships will be constructed at Gulf Island Shipyards in Louisiana and the Newport vessel will be delivered to OSU in the spring of 2021.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off