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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet 1 The U.S. Academic Research Fleet The academic research fleet provides U.S. and international users with access to the ocean—from the nearshore coastal zones to deep, remote regions far from land. Research vessels provide oceanographers with opportunities to study issues of increasing societal relevance, including the ocean’s role in climate, natural hazards, economic resources, human health, and ecosystem sustainability. A highly capable fleet of ships also provides a platform for innovative basic research in chemical, biological, and physical oceanography; marine geology and geophysics; atmospheric science; and emerging interdisciplinary areas. Reports from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) and the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST) have recognized the academic fleet as an essential component of ocean research infrastructure (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004; Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, 2007). At the same time, there is community concern that the fleet is in dire need of both modernization and recapitalization (i.e., U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004; Malakoff, 2008; UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee, 2009). BACKGROUND The UNOLS Consortium The U.S. academic research fleet is managed through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS; Box 1-1), a consortium that unites research institutions, federal agencies, and state and
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet BOX 1-1 What Is UNOLS? The UNOLS mission is to “provide a primary forum through which the ocean research and education community, research facility operators and the supporting federal agencies work cooperatively to improve access, scheduling, operation, and capabilities of current and future academic oceanographic facilities.” 18 UNOLS institutions operate shared-use facilities, including 22 research vessels, a National Deep Submergence Facility, a National Oceanographic Aircraft Facility, and a National Oceanographic Seismic Facility. UNOLS acts in an advisory role to facility operators and to supporting federal agencies, but it is not itself a funding agency or a facility operator. UNOLS supports community-wide efforts to provide broad access to oceanographic research facilities; continuous improvement of existing facilities; and planning for future oceanographic facilities. SOURCE: UNOLS website (www.unols.org) and UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee (2009). private interests. Although the academic fleet has existed since before World War II (history provided in Appendix A), the UNOLS management structure was not established until 1971, based on a recommendation of the Stratton Commission report Our Nation and the Sea (Commission on Marine Science, 1969; Byrne and Dinsmore, 2000; Bash, 2001). From 18 original operating institutions (Byrne and Dinsmore, 2000), by 2009 membership had grown to 61 institutions representing 26 states and Panama, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda (Appendix B). UNOLS coordinates the schedules of 22 vessels berthed in 13 states and Bermuda. UNOLS assists federal and states agencies in performing their sea-going responsibilities. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Minerals Management Service (MMS), and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) support the UNOLS consortium through a cooperative agreement. Other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Department of Energy (DOE) support ship time on UNOLS vessels (Annette DeSilva, personal communication, 2009). State funds and private resources are also used to support the academic fleet.
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet The UNOLS Fleet The current UNOLS fleet (Table 1-1) consists of six classes of ships (Federal Oceanographic Facilities Committee, 2001; Interagency Working Group on Facilities, 2007; UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee, 2009). Of these, the Global, Ocean, Intermediate, and Regional classes have been most likely to be built or acquired with federal funds (Interagency Working Group on Facilities, 2007). Global class vessels are large, high-endurance ships capable of working worldwide. They are able to stay at sea for 50 or more days and can carry 30-38 scientists. Two of the six Global class ships are specialized: Atlantis is the tender for the Alvin deep submersible, and Marcus Langseth is a seismic ship. While the four other Global class vessels are general purpose, each also carries specialized equipment (e.g., long coring ability on Knorr). Intermediate class ships are medium-endurance, ocean-ranging vessels with berths for 18-20 scientists. Three of the five Intermediate vessels (Endeavor, Oceanus, and Wecoma) are approaching the end of their service lives and are projected to retire in 2010. The Ocean class was envisioned in the 2001 Federal Oceanographic Facilities Committee (FOFC) report Charting the Future for the National Academic Research Fleet as a replacement for the aging, less capable Intermediate class (Federal Oceanographic Facilities Committee, 2001). These general purpose, oceangoing vessels are designed to have ranges up to 40 days and accommodations for 25 scientists. There is currently one Ocean class vessel, Kilo Moana, with three more planned. Regional and Regional/Coastal class vessels serve coastal oceanography needs, with 30-day endurance and capacity for up to 20 scientists. There are two main distinctions between these classes: all four of the Regional/Coastal vessels were funded through state sources, while two of the three Regional ships were acquired by NSF; and Regional class ships generally have a little more range and endurance than Regional/Coastal vessels, which would work closer to the coast and often conduct shorter cruises closer to port. Local class ships work in the nearshore environment, with an endurance of about 20 days and berthing for 15 or fewer scientists. Most Local class vessels are owned by individual institutions. The Navy has historically been a strong supporter of academic ocean research in the United States. In addition to funding scientific research and instrument development, there is a long and well-invested portfolio of assets in the U.S. academic research fleet (see Appendix A and Table 1-1, respectively, for past and current Navy-funded UNOLS ships). The Navy currently owns five of the six Global vessels and the sole Ocean class vessel in the UNOLS fleet, and has traditionally capitalized the largest ships of the UNOLS fleet. NSF owns the Global class Marcus Langseth, three Intermediate class vessels, and several smaller ships. NSF funds
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet Table 1-1 The 2009 UNOLS Research Fleet (adapted from www.unols.org; used with permission from UNOLS) Operating Institution Ship Year Built/Converted Owner Length (ft) Global Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Melville 1969 Navy 279 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Knorr 1970 Navy 279 University of Washington Thomas G. Thompson 1991 Navy 274 Scripps Institution of Oceanography Roger Revelle 1996 Navy 274 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Atlantis 1997 Navy 274 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Marcus Langseth 2008 NSF 235 Ocean University of Hawaii Kilo Moana 2002 Navy 186 Intermediate Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Seward Johnson 1985 FAU 204 Oregon State University Wecoma 1976 NSF 185 University of Rhode Island Endeavor 1977 NSF 185 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Oceanus 1976 NSF 177 Scripps Institution of Oceanography New Horizon 1978 SIO 170 Regional Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences (BIOS) Atlantic Explorer 2006 BIOS 168 Duke University/University of North Carolina Cape Hatteras 1981 NSF 135 Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Point Sur 1981 NSF 135 Regional/Coastal University of Delaware (UD) Hugh R. Sharp 2005 UD 146 Scripps Institution of Oceanography Robert Gordon Sproul 1981 SIO 125 Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) Pelican 1985 LUMCON 116 University of Miami (UM) Walton Smith 2000 UM 96
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet Operating Institution Ship Year Built/Converted Owner Length (ft) Local University System of Georgia/Skidaway (UG/SKIO) Savannah 2001 UG/SKIO 92 University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) Blue Heron 1985 UMD 86 University of Washington Clifford Barnes 1966 NSF 66 the majority of ship operating days (58 percent between 2000 and 2009; Annette DeSilva, personal communication, 2008) and fleet operating costs (63 percent in 2007) (UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee, 2009). By comparison, the Navy utilized an average of 17 percent of UNOLS ship operating days in the same time period. REPORT SCOPE The Navy has committed to build two new Ocean class vessels, scheduled to enter service in 2014 and 2015, with ONR as the mission sponsor. Both ONR and NSF are interested in the impact of evolving science needs, rapid technological advancements, and increasing operational costs on future research fleet capabilities. They have asked the National Academies to carry out an independent and objective assessment of the scientific and technological issues that may affect the evolution of the UNOLS fleet (see Box 1-2 for Statement of Task). Because of the long lifespan of the research fleet assets (often 30 or more years), there is a strong emphasis on adequate planning in the present to make sure the fleet remains capable of supporting future scientific research. This report investigates future vessel needs, including fleet mix, but does not address or recommend a specific number of ships needed. In the same vein, an “optimal mix” of autonomous and remote platforms, observing systems, and remote sensing is not addressed because of an inability to predict future disruptive technologies that could revolutionize the field of oceanography. This report is also not intended to impact the major design elements of the two planned Ocean class vessels, which were in development when the study was commissioned. Primary technology drivers for this study include recent investments in ocean observing systems (e.g., NSF’s Ocean Observing Initiative [OOI] and NOAA’s investment in the Integrated Ocean Observing System [IOOS]) and associated long-duration sensor packages; growth in the use
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet Box 1-2 Statement of Task In support of the need for oceanographic fleet replacement, ONR is currently in the early design process for the first of two new Ocean class ships and requires near-term advice on how the rapid advancements in ocean observing technology and the impacts of rising costs will impact the future fleet relative to Navy needs. Therefore, ONR and NSF have requested that the National Research Council (NRC) appoint an ad hoc committee to review the scientific and technological issues that may affect the evolution of the UNOLS academic fleet, including: How technological advances such as autonomous underwater vehicles and ocean observing systems will affect the role and characteristics of the future UNOLS fleet with regard to accomplishing national oceanographic data collection objectives. The most important factors in oceanographic research vessel design. Does specialized research needs dominate the design criteria and, if so, what are the impacts on costs and overall availability? How evolving modeling and remote sensing technologies will impact the balance between various research operations such as ground-truthing, hypothesis testing, exploration, and observation. How the increasing cost of ship time will affect the types of science done aboard ships. The usefulness of partnering mechanisms such as UNOLS to support national oceanographic research objectives. and maturity of remotely operated and autonomous vehicles; and increasingly sophisticated modeling and remote sensing. Evolving directions in scientific research and their expected impacts on research vessel design are also examined in the context of past experiences and present trends. The fleet is required to support a broad range of oceanographic missions, including those in physical, biological, and chemical oceanography; marine geology and geophysics; and atmospheric science. For this reason, ONR’s intent with its Global and Ocean class vessels has been to provide a general purpose platform for science (Frank Herr, personal communication, 2009). The committee has identified design requirements dictated by research needs, with a discussion of the costs entailed. Capital and life-cycle costs are also strong drivers of the academic fleet. Construction costs are dependent on shipyard labor needs and the cost of raw materials such as steel. Crew salaries and benefits costs have historically been the largest percentage of vessel operating costs, although
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet rising fuel prices from 2005 to 2008 contributed to increasingly higher overall operating costs (UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee, 2009). STUDY APPROACH AND INFORMATION NEEDS To properly evaluate the factors and demands that may drive future fleet needs, the committee considered a number of issues. Major trends in future oceanographic research were examined as a necessary complement to technological advances. The committee studied many recent community planning documents and agency strategic plans for future ocean science directions to evaluate these needs. During the information gathering process, presentations by and discussions with representatives of federal agencies, scientists, engineers, shipboard scientific support personnel, and ship operators were used to discern trends in science usage, new technologies, and vessel needs. The committee chose not to explore quantitative analyses of recent publications or conference abstracts, because members did not feel that such analyses would provide accurate, forward-looking measures of community scientific trends or changing fleet needs. Statistics related to fleet operating costs and usage trends were obtained from the UNOLS Office and examined by the committee. Due to the minor differences between their respective classes, Regional and Regional/Coastal vessels were considered together and are often used interchangeably in this report. The academic research fleet has been studied often. Federal advisory boards, interagency groups, and the UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee have all expended considerable effort discussing the status of the fleet, projections into the future, and renewal plans. These prior reports are summarized below. Past Assessments In 1999, The Academic Research Fleet was written in response to a request from NSF’s Science Advisory Board (Fleet Review Committee, 1999). The committee was asked to evaluate current and future vessel requirements for NSF oceanographic research and to report on the overall management structure for the research fleet. Among its findings and recommendations, the report recognized that the strength of the UNOLS system was in the highly trained crew and ship operators that supported seagoing research. UNOLS management and practices were also commended. The report indicated some concern about a potential decreasing trend in fleet use and called for the introduction of new technologies into the fleet and improvements in training and quality control. The report
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet recommended that federal agencies prepare and coordinate long-range plans for the academic fleet. An NSF-sponsored workshop held in 2000, Assessment of Future Science Needs in the Context of the Academic Oceanographic Fleet, examined fleet needs in the context of future science research and new observational technology. Workshop participants concluded that new observational tools and systems would not reduce or replace the need for an academic research fleet. Instead, future research and tools would increase demand for ship time and for more capable ships (Cowles and Atkinson, 2000). NSF’s 2001 report Ocean Sciences at the New Millennium asserted that “maintaining a modern, well-equipped research fleet is the most basic requirement for a healthy and vigorous research program in the ocean sciences” and strongly recommended that a long-term plan for fleet renewal be enacted (National Science Foundation, 2001). That same year, FOFC, a federal interagency committee of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), released Charting the Future for the National Academic Research Fleet (Federal Oceanographic Facilities Committee, 2001). That report responded to data in The Academic Research Fleet by setting forth a renewal strategy for the academic research fleet, with the underlying assumption that fleet capacity1 would be maintained while capabilities were increased. It outlined a 20-year plan for adding 10-13 additional vessels to the academic fleet, discussed planning for technology upgrades and updating ship concept designs and science mission requirements, and proposed the introduction of Ocean class vessels as replacements for aging and less capable Intermediate vessels of the fleet. The plan was to be revised at least once every 5 years to account for changing science needs. In its 2004 report An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy praised the UNOLS fleet renewal plan outlined in Charting the Future for the National Academic Research Fleet. However, the members of the commission expressed concern that at the time of their report there had been no move to implement the plan or provide funding for fleet renewal (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004). In 2007, the Interagency Working Group on Facilities (IWGF), a successor to FOFC established by JSOST, released the Federal Oceanographic Fleet Status Report (Interagency Working Group on Facilities, 2007). The IWGF report described the current status and planned renewal activities of federally-owned academic ships more than 40 meters in length and other federal fleet assets in the 2007-2015 time frame. Renewal plans put forth in the 2001 FOFC report either were not addressed in this report or 1 Fleet capacity was defined as 3,600 days, equal to the total operational days averaged over the previous 5-year interval (1997 to 2001).
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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet were scaled down, with the exception of a replacement for the seismic vessel Maurice Ewing. The most recent assessment of the fleet was done in 2009 by the UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee (2009). Its Fleet Improvement Plan addressed the needs of the U.S. research fleet through 2025. The report recommended that it was necessary for the academic research fleet to increase beyond the levels projected in the Federal Oceanographic Fleet Status Report and that federal agencies should proceed with existing and planned fleet renewal activities. It was noted that the current planned renewal contains fewer ships than was recommended in the 2001 Charting the Future for the National Academic Research Fleet plan. ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT This report addresses oceanographic research and technology needs that should influence the development of the U.S. academic fleet in the next 10-20 years. Chapter 2 surveys future science trends that will impact fleet usage in the near future, while Chapter 3 provides a discussion on specific technological advancements that may impact research vessel needs. Chapters 2 and 3 both address aspects of the first and third components of the Statement of Task (Box 1-2; Tasks 1 and 3). Research vessel design factors and criteria (Task 2) are outlined in Chapter 4, while fleet costs and the resulting impact on research (Task 4) are discussed in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 discusses the UNOLS partnership structure and its usefulness (Task 5). A summary and recommendations are included in Chapter 7. Relevant items from the Statement of Task are listed at the beginning of each chapter.
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