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SAN DIEGO, California -- Ushering in the next era of ocean exploration, the U.S. Office of Naval Research has selected Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego as the operator of a new scientific research vessel.
The yet-to-be-designed and built Ocean Class ship—a new class of research vessel—will lead a range of ocean expeditions that will advance science and education in the decades ahead. The new ship also will further scientific knowledge imperative to the Navy and national security.
The U.S. Navy is providing more than $88 million to fund the design and construction of the vessel, and, through the Naval Sea Systems Command, will provide program management throughout the design and construction process.
"Scripps is enormously pleased that we've been selected, and we are grateful to the United States Navy and its Office of Naval Research, which recognized the need for this new class of research vessel," said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "The competition was talented, very professional and very tough, and we feel lucky to be successful. We were pushed to assemble the best proposal I have seen in my professional life."
"UC San Diego is enormously pleased that Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been recognized for its fundamental contributions to science and society," said UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. "The award of this vital new research vessel is reflective of the stellar initiatives across UC San Diego and the University of California system, and we thank UC President Yudof as his efforts gave our proposal a crucial competitive advantage. We also express sincere thanks to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswoman Susan Davis and Members of the California Congressional delegation who supported our proposal."
Scripps currently operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels—which act as seagoing laboratories for scientists—more than any other research institution in the United States. The addition of the new vessel will benefit researchers across America through Scripps' participation in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), an organization of 61 U.S. academic institutions and national laboratories that collaborate to maximize oceanographic research resources.
"Scripps science is significant to society as a whole for its role in helping understand the ocean environment, but it also has important implications for the Navy because the processes we are studying will ultimately advance the design of specific applications that benefit our naval forces," said Haymet.
The new ship, which is planned to be constructed and commence operations by 2015, will be more than 200-feet long and able to operate continuously for up to 40 days at sea, a duration that will enable the ship to range across any ocean on Earth.
Ocean Class vessels are intended to be reliable, cost effective and flexible ships that have many of the capabilities of larger and more expensive Global Class vessels. The new ship will flexibly support interdisciplinary research, educational missions and engineering operations, with superior over-the-side equipment handling, station keeping and scientific system performance relative to previous research vessels of similar size.
"This is a new kind of research vessel, designed for capability and efficiency," said Bruce Appelgate, associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support at Scripps. "Scripps has a strong record of capably conducting cutting-edge research on oceanographic expeditions around the world, and this ship represents an important next step in maintaining our ability to investigate issues that are fundamentally important to society."
Examples of research that will be conducted on the new vessel include ocean acoustics, in which scientists seek to understand the physics of sound in water, including how it is generated, propagated and scattered. Such knowledge is vital to submarine and antisubmarine warfare, which the U.S. Navy recognizes as a re-emerging area of importance.
Processes associated with global climate change, including the melting of the Arctic ice cap, changes in the pH of the ocean due to the absorption of greenhouse gases and weather-related natural disasters, are key areas for seagoing scientists as well as naval operations and strategies.
The new vessel will be equipped with powerful ocean exploration equipment and instrumentation, including multibeam seafloor mapping systems for deep and shallow water, a sub-bottom profiler that will map sediments below the seafloor, acoustic doppler current profilers for mapping currents throughout the water column and precise navigation tools for tracking instruments in the water beneath the ship. An array of networked sensors will measure atmospheric and ocean properties.
The vessel will feature new technologies for efficient operation and low total lifetime costs, said Appelgate, including clean, fuel-efficient engines that meet California's stringent clean-air standards and a hull engineered to move through the water using as little fuel as possible.
Scripps began scientific ship operations in 1904 and has operated more than 23 ships.
The new vessel's home port, as with Scripps' current four vessels and research platform FLIP, will be the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego's Point Loma community on San Diego Bay. The facility employs more than 150 mariners, technicians, engineers and administrators devoted to scientific ship operations.
Scripps expends more than $20 million annually in support of its research vessels. The economic impact of the new vessel is anticipated to be $10 million annually.
"Scripps looks forward to continuing our role in the local marine economy and building new relationships with vendors, suppliers and service industries," said Appelgate.