promotes cooperation, through coordinated scheduling and the sharing of best practices from within and beyond the community (Mike Prince, personal communication, 2009). Tasking ocean science research institutions to operate research vessels ensures that the goals of the ship operators and research community are closely aligned.


Federal agencies bring a variety of assets to the UNOLS consortium. The Navy owns all but one of the UNOLS Global and Ocean class vessels, while the National Science Foundation (NSF), academic institutions, and other research entities own the Regional and smaller research ships. Partnering with UNOLS permits federal agencies to do the following (Herr, 2006):

  • Select the right size ship for each of their science and technology missions

  • Share transit costs with other agencies and institutions

  • Extend mission equipment outfitting to multiple agencies

  • Allow multiple ship missions without chartering commercial vessels

The partnership allows each supporting federal agency to access the entire UNOLS fleet with its variety of ship sizes and capabilities, including the use of larger vessels for deep water and global research and smaller vessels for nearshore and coastal oceanography needs (Office of Naval Research, 2006).

The ability to “right size” a research vessel for specific missions can provide significant cost savings. A 2006 Naval Research Advisory Committee (NRAC) case study concluded that the Navy saved $46.3 million between 2001 and 2006 by utilizing the entire UNOLS fleet, rather than using only the Global and Ocean class vessels it owns (Herr, 2006). Other cost savings were realized by sharing transit and equipment costs with other agencies. Sharing transit, maintenance, and equipment costs with NSF through the UNOLS partnership structure reduced the Navy’s costs by $11 million in the same time frame. Agreements between the Navy and NSF have resulted in significant NSF equipment expenditures for Navy-owned ships (including conductivity-temperature-depth sensors [CTDs], Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers [ADCPs], sonars, etc.). The use of UNOLS vessels for multiple ship missions, rather than chartered commercial ships, has also provided savings to the Navy (roughly 30 percent for a Global class size vessel). Leveraging through the UNOLS

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