Construction of Marine Science Vessels Up

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
By Larry Pearson

Marine science is making great strides forward due in large measure to several new vessels that have delivered recently and others under construction Headlining this news is the Oscar Dyson, the first of four vessels loaded with scientific gear that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is having built at VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss. The first vessel was completed in September of 2004 and as the Oscar Dyson was being completed, the contract for the second vessel, Henry B. Bigelow was announced. These 208-ft. by 49-ft. vessels have cutting edge capabilities to gather scientific information on fish populations and the water quality of their habitat. "Among the capabilities of these ship is their ability to conduct bottom and mid-water trawls while running physical and biological-oceanographic sampling during a single; deployment-a combined capability not available in the private sector," said Dr. Doug DeMaster, director of the Alaskan Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Wash. In order for the vessel to perform sensitive hydro-acoustic surveys, the boat is built around a diesel electric propulsion platform. Two Caterpillar 3512 engines and two Caterpillar 3508 engines are each connected to generators providing a total of 4,460 kW electrical power to run all systems on the boat including a pair of electric motors connected in line to a single screw.

The vessel $38.8 million vessel will be home ported in Kodiak, Alaska and will support research on the fish population in surrounding waters, concentrating on the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Monitoring of the Pollack fishery will be the vessel's primary mission. Among the sensitive hydro-acoustic systems on board is a drop keel centerboard that will allow acoustic transducers to be lowered below the noise that any ships makes traveling through water. The Lake Effect One of the busiest marine science facilities in the world is the Great Lakes Science Center, (GLSC) headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich. on the campus of the University of Michigan. The center is a part of the U.S. Geological Survey.The mission of the GLSC is to gather scientific information relative to enhancing, managing and protecting living resources and their habitats in the Great Lakes.

The GLSC accomplishes this mission with 107 employees, half located in Ann Arbor and the other half at one of the Center's field stations with locations in all of the five Great Lakes. This includes a vessel base in Cheboygan, Michigan. The GLSC has vessels in each of the five Great Lakes. Unlike most marine research centers, 40 percent of the GLSC fleet is new or nearly so. The R/V Kiyi was built in 1999 by Patti Shipyards, Pensacola, Fla. The vessel works on Lake Superior and is home ported in Bayfield, Wisc. It conducts fish population and habitat research primarily in the Apostle Island area where research has focused on one of the last viable and self sustaining populations of lake trout in the Great Lakes. The 107-ft. Kiyi uses trawls and gillnets to annually sample preyfish populations and to track the sustainability of the trout population. The $2.8 million vessel has open up an entire new realm of possibilities, according to Owen Gorman, Director of the Lake Superior Biological Station. "Before the Kiyi we could not have even thought about bringing other scientists aboard to do work while we were sampling fish," Gorman said. "We can accommodate 10 and have wet and dry labs on the Kiyi for scientific study and also take a closer look at what is going on in deeper parts of the lake." Gorman added.

The newest vessel to join the GLSC fleet is the R/V Sturgeon commissioned in September 2004. The GLSC acquired the 100-ft. by 25-ft. vessel in 1993 and had it completely rebuilt at Basic Marine, Escambia, Mich. The hull and structural in the hull was in good condition but much of the main deck plating was wasted and had to be replaced. Much of the superstructure was replaced including a new 01 deck house and a new pilothouse complete with new navigation and communication systems. In the hull the Detroit Diesel Series 60 375 hp engines were removed, rebuilt and replaced along with the gears. A pair of new Cummins 99 kW gensets were added. The entire electrical system was replaced.

Also new was a bow thruster, knuckle boom deck crane, fishing equipment, trawl winches and trawl gantries, a net reel, gillnet lifter and net rollers. A three-ft. by three ft. gill net door was added. A pair of 12-inch diameter sonar tubes that can be lowered from the main deck through the hull were also added. The R/V Sturgeon is based at Cheboygan, Mich. and works in Lake Michigan from May to November with a crew of three and up to seven scientists onboard. "The Sturgeon works a lot at night doing bottom trawling," said Joe Spicciani, captain of the vessel. "Next season we will do a lot acoustic survey work in the spring and forage fish assessments in the fall," Spicciani added. "We work in water depths from 5 to 110 meters," he added. Bottom trawling for zebra mussels is also a priority for the vessel. The wet lab on the Sturgeon can take fish directly in from the gillnet door on the side of the vessel. The boat also has a dry lab with the latest sonar, computer and acoustic recording equipment. Other features of the Sturgeon include a conference room, live wells, freezer space, a stern roller and a 12 mph speed.

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