The following content has been reviewed by the National Science Foundation.
The number of ships in the class that will be constructed is currently being considered by Congress. The President's FY 2017 Budget Request included funding to initiate the construction of two Regional Class Research Vessels. In April, the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) with jurisdiction for NSF proposed to provide budgetary support for three vessels, including language stating that by having three regional ships, the Gulf of Mexico and the East and West coasts will be able to have their own dedicated RCRV to maximize research time in each region. Then, in May, the House Appropriations Committee approved the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill that in effect removed funding for the construction of any RCRVs.
The legislative process in both the House and Senate for enacting appropriations for NSF that will determine the number of ships to begin construction in FY 2017 is ongoing. The House and Senate will come to an agreement and enact legislation that provides for the amount of funding for RCRV construction and for how many ships. This bill would need to be signed by the President before it becomes law. The process and timing for enacted legislation is not yet known.
To be sure, funds provided to advance design and prepare the project for the construction phase is funded by FY 2016 funds and those activities continue. The project has not been cancelled.
The table below outlines the RCRV Design Evolution and the drivers, reviews and related activities that led to increases in vessel length.
|RCRV Design LOA (ft)||Date of Change/Milestone||Activities/Drivers of Change|
|131-180||March 2003||UNOLS Science Mission Requirements for Regional Oceanographic Research Vessels released|
|June 2004||FIC request for community input on prioritization of SMRs to guide Navy SOR development|
|Approximately 140-165||September 2005||Navy's Initial SOR|
|Spring 2006||Review/Comment on initial SOR by UNOLS committees|
|155 maximum||March 2007||Navy's Revised SOR|
|155||October 7-8, 2009||RCRV Design Down-Select Panel Meeting/Recommendation of Nichols-Glosten Associates Design|
|March 25, 2010||NSF Request to FIC for recommendations on changes in RCRV design including usable aft deck space|
|September 07, 2012||NSF Solicitation 12-558 directs LI to incorporate recommendations of UNOLS FIC as agreed by NSF including adding 20' to aft deck and centerboard and "Student Education Lab"|
|175||December 13, 2012||NSF selection of OSU as LI and approval of 20' added to LOA with no increase to superstructure length|
|February 25, 2013||NSF Determination Review. Established Ice Class requirements and established RCRV could not be less than 300GTR (i.e. would be inspected and need hospital and extra berthing)|
|185||June 14, 2013||RCRV Basis of Design Memo 06.01-1 and review activities leading to decisions to include an enclosed foredeck and angled transom|
|December 2-6, 2013||CDR|
|191||December 12, 2013||Basis of Design Memo 194.1 -1 following sea keeping analyses. Decision approved by NSF for addition of U-Tube for better sea keeping.|
|August 4-7, 2014||PDR|
|193||December 8, 2014||Decision to mitigate weight risk identified at PDR. Basis of Design Memo 079.1|
Based on the recommendation from the National Science Board, the NSF has requested funding for two vessels in the 2017 President's Budget request released in early 2016. The final budget for the RCRV will depend upon what congress approves moving forward. In the meantime, OSU and its partners will continue to design what we're calling "the world's most advanced research vessel under 200 feet." The design is based on documented requirements prepared by the nation's science community and the National Science Foundation. As such, we envision these vessels will:
No decision has been made yet as to which U.S. shipyard will construct the vessel(s). The procurement is planned to be open to all interested shipyards capable of constructing up to two vessels of the size and complexity currently envisioned for the RCRV.
Oregon-based shipyards will compete equally with shipyards from other states.
OSU and our partners from The Glosten Associates thoroughly explored this and other powering options with the goal of finding the most efficient "modern" powering and propulsion solution that would still allow the vessel to meet its anticipated mission requirements. In addition to hybrids, we looked at fuel cells and liquid natural gas (LNG). We also explored augmenting power generation through sail, wave energy, and even limited solar power. Although an unfortunate truth, these sorts of solutions do not provide the power density required to meet the demands of a modern regional class research vessel. There is not enough storage space, for example, to incorporate LNG. Fuel cells are largely unproven and are not a practical solution to meet the 21-day duration requirement. A hybrid battery/diesel electric solution looked promising, but when we ran the numbers it didn't pencil out. The reason they work to some degree on tugboats doesn't apply to a research ship. A tug loiters for long periods using little energy, so batteries alone are sufficient. When a research ship is on station, it is often using cranes, A-Frames, or is holding a heading into wind and seas. This all takes power. Lots of power. For this reason, as well as the space and weight requirements driven by battery storage, a hybrid solution did not prove viable for RCRV.
That said, energy efficiency is one of the principal components of the RCRV design. It was with that in mind we performed our "green ship study" that identified a large number of energy efficient features that will be incorporated into the RCRV design. This report is publicly available on our website. One of the elements we're most excited about (of many exciting design features) is that we're planning to incorporate an integrated bus that will power and propel the vessel with shared variable speed power generation. Although this is explained in more detail in the report, the main idea behind this technology is that generators will produce the necessary power while running at an optimal speed thereby decreasing the fuel consumption. Production matches the demand by varying the speed of the generators. This feature alone is expected to reduce fuel consumption by up to 15%. Some vessels are reporting even greater savings, although this technology is still relatively new on ships. By assuming up to a 15% reduction, and assuming the vessel uses 1000 gallons a day (which is a likely consumption rate expected for RCRV), for a 220 day annual sailing schedule this would equate to a savings of 33,000 gallons of diesel fuel or 369 tons of CO2.
The vessel's fuel endurance was sized such that the vessel could cruise at its design speed for up to 21 days. The design speed is approximately 11.5 knots. As a practical matter, few if any oceanographic research cruises will require 11.5 knots sustained for 21 days. It follows that the fuel endurance, a function of fuel consumption, will increase as demand decreases. Performing science operations on station will decrease fuel consumption as will transiting at speeds less than 11.5 knots. Fuel endurance greatly increases beyond 21 days when these factors are considered. But, as a regional class vessel, endurance beyond 21 days at transiting speed was out of scope.
If the vessel was to conduct a science mission in which it spent quite a bit of time on station, or surveying at slow speeds, the limiting factor would quickly become cold stores as it does on any research vessel. RCRV stores are sized for approximately 21 days with a full crew and science complement (including the addition of a mated four-person accommodations van). It could be possible to extend cold stores endurance with the addition of a small reefer van, for example. Fittings for such a van have been included forward on the enclosed foredeck in order to ensure maximum versatility of the RCRV for science projects in the regional zones that might require greater than 21 days at sea. However, as mentioned, internal store spaces were sized based on the 21 day requirement.
The U.S. academic research fleet of the future will, according to the National Science Foundation, be composed of fewer but more capable vessels. The following list comprises some of the attributes that will make the planned RCRV's "more capable" than the current generation of similarly classed vessels.
Two RCRVs expected to facilitate missions previously assigned to 5 less capable intermediate and regional ships while also facilitating some missions previously placed on higher cost Ocean and Global class vessels because the science requirements include the use of capabilities not found on older intermediates and regional class vessels (such as DP or multi beam).
The bilge keels, centerboard, a wider beam, and primarily the "U-Tube" will greatly reduce vessel rolling motions. This will enable a different mode of operations whereby the vessel is aligned WITH the sea wave trough rather than into the waves. This will reduce pitch and, by employing the "U-Tube" properly, will reduce roll. This will increase the safety of deployments and likely increase the sea state in which operations can occur. This makes the vessel more useful and able to collect data earlier and later in the year when the weather is worse. This is a large part of being "more capable."
The vessel is being designed to operate as efficiently as possible. This will reduce both operational costs and the vessel's carbon footprint. It will do more for less: the metric "data per dollar" will be maximized by increasing the amount of data the vessel can collect and minimizing the cost to do it. Primary efficiencies are due to:
No current intermediate or regional vessel is certified for safe operation around sea ice. RCRV will be built with an ABS "C0" Ice classification meaning that the vessel is certified to safely independently operate in areas of open first year ice coverage less than 6/10ths total of ice one foot or less. Interest in science research operations in polar regions is expected to increase in coming decades as the regions become more accessible to navigation, and the RCRVs will present one of the most cost effective platforms to operate in these areas. The Alaska region has been identified by the science community as a possible "region" in which the RCRV could be expected to operate.
Dynamic positioning will enable the vessel to safely hold station over a wide range of environmental conditions. This provides the advantage of enabling new position-critical missions to be performed, such as precise ROV tracking. ROV tracking can actually be performed automatically by connecting its position data to the DP system. This is what was done, for example, by response vessels at the BP oil spill to close the well. They actually had up to 20 ROVs operating simultaneously, all from DP vessels. This would have been inconceivable by hand operated vessels. No research ship at the time had this capability. DP will also increase safety of the vessel in high states of wind and seas while the vessel is docking, working in rivers, or close to navigational hazards, etc. With our two Z-drives and two bow thrusters, these are going to be very maneuverable vessels.
Besides enabling "virtual participation", increasing engagement with students and researchers, and vastly increasing the amount of data that is collected and available, the vessel will be able to "ground truth" remotely sensed data from satellites in near real time–providing important cal/val services not currently available. We are working with remote sensing experts to ensure that we are collecting data useful to this process. The types of data being continually collected (met, ocean, ocean floor) will be unprecedented by any vessel.
RCRV will have the ability to collect high quality and high resolution ocean floor and subfloor acoustic data (multibeam) from near shore to midwater depths. We are working with hydrographers to ensure that RCRV multibeam data collected in shallow and midwater depths will be "chart quality" (i.e. of the highest quality that will potentially be useful for charting and habitat mapping, an ability that is important to the ocean energy industry, for example).
RCRV will also introduce a deployable "centerboard" that will, with high positional precision, provide at versatile platform on to which a wide variety of acoustical sensors can be easily installed based on specific mission requirements. These could possibly include fisheries survey transducers (EK-60), current profilers (ADCP), and shallow water multibeam units (2040), among other possibilities. The innovation of the RCRV's centerboard will be that it will have a removable "foot" that can be used to easily swap out families of sensors AND it will have swappable plates that will provide the maximum flexibility for individual sensors. Presently, no vessel in the academic research fleet has as versatile a centerboard or one so precisely spatially referenced in order to provide highly reliable data.
Active Heave Comp and Render recover will increase safety of operations and enable deployments in higher environmental conditions.
Synthetic line, neutrally buoyant in water, will open up new possibilities for coring including video coring.
RCRV will have built in grey/black/fresh water hook ups, full power, alarms, network drops, etc. The modular design, with standard mating features, and forward fit, exemplified by USCG approved berthing vans and other science lab vans will greatly improve mission flexibility.
The class system for the UNOLS fleet has never had rigid differentiators. Each class has an expected primary mission that is matched to the capabilities of the vessels within the class. The primary mission of the new Regional Class Research Vessels will be research operations in the coastal ocean ranging from nearshore environments to the outer continental rise. The vessels' endurance, draft, ice classification and science mission equipment will be tailored for essential science in these "regional environments" along all US coasts including Alaska.
At this time, all that is known is that Oregon State University will operate the first vessel. If and when NSF decides to build more than one vessel, a solicitation to operate the other vessel(s) will likely be issued in early 2017 with operator selection at the end of 2017.
If all goes according to plan, the first vessel will receive its UNOLS designation in mid 2021 following a year of shakedown and trials.
As vessels within the UNOLS fleet, RCRV day rates will vary annually depending on factors such as days per year of funded science operations, realized crew salaries and travel, the science missions being supported, transit distances, fuel costs, the need for regulatory activities such as inspections, and maintenance. Using best case/worse case scenarios that assume 220 versus 150 operating days and inflation rates for fuel of 2% versus 4%, estimates of day rates for the RCRVs in 2021 range from about $22,300 to about $28,500 per day of operation. These estimates do not include technical services.
The majority of any vessel's day-rate calculation derives from the costs from crew and shore support salaries. Due to the expected efficiencies of the RCRV design, fuel consumption (as a variable cost) is expected to be similar to the smaller and less capable R/V Oceanus. This analysis was provided by OSU to the NSF as part of the project's panel-reviewed Preliminary Design Review materials. Refinements to these estimates continue in advance of the project's Final Design Review expected in the fall of 2016.
To put these numbers in a greater context, the average day rate for the Oceanus between 2012 and 2014 was $24,016. As Federal assets, depreciation costs are not included as part of the day rate calculation. The Congressional Budget Office provides more information on the "cash accounting" method as applied to Federal investments.
As stated in the project's "System Requirements Document", the vessels shall be "capable of general-purpose interdisciplinary oceanographic research in areas from shallow coastal bays and estuaries to and beyond the continental shelf and slope. The ship shall be capable of operating on any ocean worldwide, in a regional research capacity." To that end, the project has science and regional input from its "Science Oversight Committee." This NSF-approved group is composed of a diverse membership of scientists, operators, and technicians from the East, Gulf, West, and Alaska regions of the United States. These members act as a conduit between the science community and the RCRV project team on important issues regarding the vessels' capabilities, requirements, and particular characteristics that might be unique to a specific operating region.
For more information on the history of the RCRV design, please see this short report.
If all goes according to plan, OSU expects to award the contract for the first vessel in mid 2017.
OSU has engaged with The Glosten Associates, a highly respected engineering and naval architecture firm located in Seattle. Also on the team are other engineering and technical consultants who bring a wide range of experiences to the design development effort. The vessels will be built by a to-be-determined shipyard in the United States.
It's a bit early to be answering that one. We first need to finalize funding and contract with the shipyard. But when the time comes, the current plan is to host a contest open to Oregon residents to pick the name of the follow-on vessel to Research Vessels Yaquina and Wecoma. OSU's current vessel, Oceanus, was inherited from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 2012 and OSU decided to maintain her historic name. The name of the to-be-built OSU-operated RCRV will be selected from the entries by a to-be-named committee. Other potential operating institutions will name their vessel according to their own policies.
The table above summarizes the major changes since 2005. In short, these have been driven by the following:
OSU envisions the datapresence/telepresence capabilities of the RCRV as a tool to facilitate virtual research at sea while providing an interdisciplinary approach to ocean science research, one that enhances observational, experimental and analytical capabilities. Implementing the RCRV class as a shore-accessible continuous data collection system will link scientists everywhere to quality real-time data and promote unprecedented shore-based expertise and participation in sea going operations. This approach will also enable the class to readily participate in outreach activities and further engage the community.
The term "datapresence" is intended to convey that virtual participation will extend far beyond just video streaming. The vision is to provide a wide selection of high quality, processed data as information that is accessible in near real time to researchers anywhere in order to allow them to become virtually part of an at-sea science party.
With the construction of up to two RCRVs, OSU recognizes the opportunity to achieve economies of scale by managing certain aspects of vessel operations across the class. In the course of operating Oceanus Class vessels in conjunction with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) since 1975, many lessons have been learned in how best to approach standardization with resulting efficiencies while maintaining the institutional autonomy necessary to meet unique requirements inherent to operations in diverse ocean areas.
To that end a Class Management Office will be established. The primary functions of this Type Desk include:
Our class management philosophy can be summarized as this: cost advantages can be realized where there are common processes. Beyond those, inefficiencies are imposed. Another way of putting it is that we propose to manage the class in a manner akin to the NSF/UNOLS "Pool" concept that has been successfully applied to wires, laboratory vans and, most recently, winches. Where common processes exist, the Class Management Office can reduce those redundancies by centralized management. Regional Operating Institutions maintain autonomy but reduce cost and effort by externalizing certain common functions.
The Navy's Statement of Requirements, dated March 2007 indicated that the RCRV would be classified as ABS D0. OSU received this requirement, among others, that served as the original baseline from which further requirements and design changes were measured.
On 23 January 2013, OSU received direction from NSF to "Develop 'PC-7 Ice Classifications Impact Report' for one (1) hull as new deliverable." This report was subsequently developed as "Implications of Applying IACS Polar Class 7 to the RCRV Design." In this report, and reiterated again at the 27 February 2013 NSF Determinations Review (NDR), it was recommended against building a PC7 vessel stating that a scaled down version of Sikuliaq would be more appropriate for operations in and around ice. Further discussion at NDR resulted in a task for OSU to evaluate C0 versus the baseline D0 requirement. OSU & The Glosten Associates then developed report 12100.02 "Implications of Applying ABS Ice Class C0 to the RCRV Design" wherein recommendation was made:
"Making the RCRV ice class C0 will result in a significant increase in the vessel's capabilities and days of operability in icebound waters [over D0]. This increased ability is achieved at a very nominal cost to the program and without any anticipated major changes to the vessel's systems or machinery."
It should be clear that this second Glosten report evaluated bumping up the Ice Classification from D0 to C0, NOT from no Ice Classification to C0. The impact to the design from the incremental increase from D0 to C0 was far less than it would have been to C0 from no classification whatsoever.
The SOC supported the recommendation to upgrade from D0 to C0 as did NSF. As a result C0 requirement was added to the top-level requirements System Requirement Document for it seemed that for minimal additional cost, and should there be an ice classification at all, a C0 rating was far more useful than D0. Ice Classification was also added to the project's Descoping List with a pre-defined retirement date of "Phase IA" meaning that eliminating this requirement after Phase IA would not be practical under foreseeable circumstances due to the necessary costs in engineering to the design and associated stability studies. On the descoping list, it was assigned a science impact score of 7 and an operations cost of 1 meaning that, should Ice Classification be de-scoped, the impact to science would be a "moderate reduction in a major mission capability" and that it would "add no lifetime cost" respectively. There was no score available for lifetime cost savings.
Definitions of ABS Ice Classifications can be found in Part 6, Chapter 1, Section 5 of the ABS Rules, 2015.
Please send inquiries to the project support assistant, Hannah Rivera email@example.com. She'll be able to route inquiries to the appropriate RCRV team member.