Future Research Vessel Project
In May 2009 the Australian Government allocated $120 million for a new ocean-going research vessel to replace the current Marine National Facility Research Vessel, the 66-metre Southern Surveyor.
The new vessel is being designed, built and commissioned by CSIRO through the Future Research Vessel Project, an initiative of the Australian Government under the Super Science Initiative and financed from the Education Investment Fund. The process will take four years, with the vessel’s completion expected in 2013.
Following a rigorous procurement process undertaken by the CSIRO, Teekay Holdings Australia Pty Ltd was awarded the contract in January 2011 to design, build and commission the new vessel. The vessel is being designed by RALion (Robert Allan Ltd and Alion Science and Technology) from USA and Canada and is to be built by Sembawang Shipyard Pte Ltd in Singapore. As a condition of their approved Australian Industry Participation Plan, Teekay will ensure Australian suppliers and expertise are used where possible.
Given the name RV Investigator after a national naming competition, the 93.9-metre ship will be capable of spending 300 days a year at sea, supporting activities across a range of disciplines in oceanographic, climate, geological, fisheries and ecosystem research. Each voyage will be able to accommodate 40 scientists, and can go to sea for up to 60 days and cover 10 000 nautical miles.
CSIRO will own and manage the new vessel and its operation will be guided by an independent steering committee and funded by the Australian Government to support voyages by Australian scientists and their overseas collaborators.
Australia has one of the world’s largest marine territories, much of which remains unexplored, with only one blue-water research vessel available to our marine research community. The regional seas and oceans which wash our shores are the focus of increasing research attention, particularly the Southern Ocean which may hold the key to understanding the role of the ocean in global climate.
Research is vital to the sustainable development and management of the ocean, and to understanding its influence in the region and around the world.
The new vessel will operate from the tropical north to the Antarctic ice-edge and across the Indian, Southern, and Pacific oceans, greatly improving Australia’s capacity to:
- investigate and understand marine geological processes
- detect and predict changes in the ocean environment and their implications for weather and climate; and
- characterise and manage marine ecosystems, biodiversity and fisheries.
The Marine National Facility provides Australia’s only dedicated blue-water research vessel capable of operating in our vast ocean territory. CSIRO has a 25-year track record in managing the Marine National Facility and RV Investigator will provide a step-change in blue-water research capability available to Australia’s marine research community.
The shape of future voyages
The vessel’s design will feature a core backbone of permanently fitted sampling, data acquisition, management, presentation and communication systems including winches, acoustic mapping and environmental monitoring devices.
Research teams will be able to add purpose-built systems to support their own investigations, such as radiation and trace metal laboratories, deep-water dredging, coring and drilling devices, fishing nets, towed camera systems and remotely operated vehicles.
Researchers also will be able to integrate vessel-acquired data with data from satellite sensors, autonomous vehicles and shore based models in real time.
This expansion of Australia’s ocean research capacity will also deliver increased opportunities for participation in important international research programs which are vital to understanding marine and atmospheric processes on a global scale.