Ireland’s Marine Institute plans new marine research vessel

New marine research vessel for Ireland Marine Institute CEO Dr Peter Heffernan and Skipsteknisk’s Hans Ove Holmøy shake on the contract by a model of Celtic Explorer. Photo: Marine Institute
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The Marine Institute has announced that the design process of Ireland's new state of the art marine research vessel is now under way. Following an extensive EU tender process, ship design consultants Skipsteknisk have been awarded the contract to design the new state of the art marine research vessel for Ireland. This is seen as a major milestone, with the build process expected to complete in 2022.

Supporting the Irish government's national integrated marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, as well as the national Marine Research and Innovation Strategy, the new 50 metre research vessel will form a critical part of the States maritime infrastructure. It will replace the Celtic Voyager and will be a sister ship to Ireland's largest research vessel, the 65 metre Celtic Explorer, also a Skipsteknisk design and which entered service in 2003.

The new vessel will support Ireland in addressing some of the research challenges of Brexit and the Common Fisheries Policy, as well as climate induced impacts on oceans. It will facilitate service demands under the European Maritime Fund including the conservation, management and rebuilding of fish stocks and long-term sustainable harvesting of marine biological resources.

"There are many challenges posed and threats in relation to our oceans and research is an intrinsic part of formulating a sustainable approach to the use, understanding and management of our oceans,” said Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, Michael Creed.

“The funding of the new vessel demonstrates the Government's commitment to expanding and strengthening marine science in Ireland to ensure our nation is equipped with the best scientific advice possible to enable a strong negotiating position and to maximise economic opportunities in a sustainable manner."

Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute welcomed the signing of the research vessel design contract.

"The Institute is on track and on budget with the design of the new vessel, which will provide critical national infrastructure and marks a major milestone in the Marine Institute's efforts to provide world-class marine science. The significantly enhanced capabilities of the new research vessel will help researchers, educators, students and the public gain a richer understanding of our ocean and will facilitate exploration that will lead to discoveries that stretch the bounds of our imagination,” he said.

"This significant investment in the nation's scientific research recognises the Marine Institute's quarter-century of leadership in the field of oceanography and its long-standing and fruitful collaborations with partner institutions. The new vessel will enable us all to more efficiently explore, collaborate, and conduct global ocean research."

Based in Galway, the new vessel will be used by the Marine Institute and other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research and surveys, as well as student training. It will enable us to continue building on our achievements as world leaders in seabed mapping. It will also allow for continued transatlantic surveys with international partners through AORA (Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance), as well as EU funded survey programmes obtained through Horizon2020.

Mick Gillooly, Director of Ocean Science and Information services, Marine Institute highlighted that the nature of marine equipment has changed significantly since the launch of Ireland's first research vessel, Celtic Voyager, back in 1997.

"The new research vessel will feature state-of-the-art technologies enabling a wide range of work including ocean monitoring, fish stock assessment and seabed surveying,” he said.

“This will be a silent research vessel, designed to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research. In addition, the vessel will be designed to operate in the harsh conditions encountered in the NE Atlantic and will be able to spend 21 days at sea. It will also support the remotely operated vehicle and autonomous underwater vehicle operations, which enable the exploration of our deep ocean down to 3000 metres."

Once the design phase is complete, the next phase in this three-year project funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, is to tender for a shipyard to construct the vessel. This is expected to be complete by year end, with delivery of the new vessel expected early 2022.

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