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3 SUITABILITY OF CHARTER VESSELS FOR NOAA PROGRAMS In each of the mission areas discussed in Chapter 1, NOAA will need to consider specific program needs and ultimately the specific requirements of projects within each program area. This chapter describes the applicability of chartering to each mission area and then focuses on the technical requirements of projects that are potentially suited for utilizing vessel charters. HYDROGRAPHIC AND BATHYMETRIC MAPPING AND CHARTING This is a highly specialized area in terms of both operating person- nel and shipboard instrumentation. Bathymetric mapping and charting require expensive acoustical echo-sounding systems interfaced to precision navigation and ship motion sensors. Ship size requirements range from intermediate (150 feet) to medium (250 feet), and vessels should have low radiated-noise characteristics. Installation and calibration of bathymetric equipment are time-consuming efforts and beyond the scope of any but a long-term charter, especially if personnel need training in hydrography, imagery, processing, and quality control. The Naval Oceanographic Office and NOS have limited experience in contractor hydrography and have had marginal success with short-term projects. Long-term contractor operation is feasible, but NOAA chartering experience is lacking in terms of conversion time, quality control, and overall cost-effectiveness. Hydrographic Surveys Hydrographic ship operations have not been considered for chartering by this committee because of the following reasons: o the stringent quality control required of the charting process from the data acquisition of hydrographic surveys; o data processing, data selection, and chart compilation; and o the legal requirement to support the product (nautical charts) in litigation. 21

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22 Bathymetric Surveys Bathymetric surveys produce a water-depth map of the seafloor or of the bottom of any large, water-covered area. Uses for bathymetric maps are varied and extend to both military and commercial operations. Significant economic potential can be derived from identifying those areas where the seafloor topography is favorable for mineral extraction, energy, and biotechnology development projects (sea vents). Bathymetric data also play a vital role in regional geological and geophysical studies. Ship specifications for a bathymetric survey with respect to length, beam, draft, displacement, horsepower, cruising speed, and range depend on whether the ship is to be used for single-purpose or multi-purpose missions. Onboard facilities for surveying and research include drafting and plotting areas, navigation and computer systems, a chemical laboratory, and, if necessary, other facilities to accommodate the needs of other missions. Appendix D contains a sample project description and lists some of the ship characteristics, equipment, and scientific instrumentation required for a deep-ocean bathymetric survey. The primary system to record bathymetric data in excess of 600 meters of water is SEABEAM, which is a multibeam sonar swath system that produces a real-time contour plot of the ocean floor. The areal size of the project area to be surveyed for each cruise (22 to 26 days at sea) is dependent on the water depth and a productivity goal of 2,000 line nautical miles. Operating and quality control procedures call for the ship to tra- verse clearly along the strike of the seafloor topography with each new swath in order to have at least a 10 percent coverage overlap with the adjacent swath. They also require that the ship periodically run a single swath at right angles to the strike to provide a "loop network'' that ties all swaths together within a permissible margin of error (tolerance) set by NOAA. If the overlaps and ties do not confv~-~ to NOAA's requirements, then the swaths that are most likely to contain the errant data are repeated. In addition to the bathymetric survey, bottom samples are taken every 5 nautical miles, and vertical velocity profiles of the sea column are recorded several times during the cruise at different locations. Ancillary equipment includes state-of-the-art navigation, weather, and communication systems. All instrumentation is monitored and main- tained by an electronics technician aboard the vessel. On completion of the bathymetric survey (acquisition stage), all field data, plots, and computer tapes are sent to the NOAA office in Rockville, Maryland for analysis. Adjustments are made within the limits of NOAA-approved accuracy specifications to prepare the final copy of the bathymetric mans (processing staged

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23 Bathymetric Survey of the Exclusive Economic Zone In 1983, President Reagan established the Exclusive Economic Zone, extending 200 nautical miles seaward of the coastlines of the United States and its territories. The Department of Commerce has established a major program to meet the goal of determining the characteristics and resources of the EEZ, which approximates 3.4 million square nautical miles. To meet this responsibility, NOAA, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is undertaking a systematic mapping program of the EEZ. The USGS has identified areas having resource potential for hard mineral and oil and gas prospects. The respective priorities of the USGS and NOAA to map certain areas early on, along with operational considerations, have been factored into the present 5-year plan (1987-1992). Since the beginning of NOAA's EEZ Mapping Project in 1984, two NOAA ships have surveyed over 30,000 square nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean floor off California, Oregon, and Hawaii. Based on a monthly production capability of 800 square nautical miles per ship, five ships dedicated to bathymetric surveying could collect data over 240,000 square nautical miles of the high-priority areas within the 3.4 million square nautical miles, or approximately 7 percent of the total area, by the end of the current 5-year plan. If SEABEAM is used for the entire EEZ, it would take 71 years for five ships to complete the project using present technology and operating procedures. Until late 1990 when the Global Positioning System (GPS) is usable 24 hours a day, bathymetric surveys using radio positioning systems, such as Argo will be restricted to distances of less than 100 nautical miles from shore (where GPS is not available). While International Hydrographic Standards (IHO) require positioning to be better than a 50-meter circular error of position (CEP) and depths to be accurate to 1 percent, more stringent standards could be imposed by NOAA after the GPS is operational. Contractor Collected Bathymetric Data The experience of the international oil companies in conducting their marine oil and gas exploration operations illustrates the efficacy of contractor operations for marine scientific surveys. From 1947 to 1987, the geophysical contractors servicing the oil industry around the world and in all kinds of operating environments have probably acquired more than 95 percent of all the marine geophysical data (seismic, gravity, and magnetic) used by the oil industry to make its important decisions for leasing acreage and drilling expensive exploratory wells. The remaining data have been furnished by oil company-owned crews and governmental and academic institutions. According to the September 1987 issue of The Lead ing Edge , a publication of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), an interim report shows 57 marine seismic crews working worldwide, of which 24 are working in U.S. waters and 3 are company owned.

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24 A marine, high-resolution, multichannel seismic survey, employing areal source and receiver arrays, is common in oil and gas exploration. Contractor operations have been used by the oil industry for more than 40 years. The oil companies also address the same concerns of product quality, price, service, and integration of data sets from different contractors. (The public image status that may result from owning versus contracting vessels is not a major concern among oil companies.) The oil industry has found great success in employing contractors to conduct its surveys. Of all the missions charged to NOAA, bathymetric surveying would be a leading candidate for contractor operations in the acquisi lion stage (the processing stage which does not require vessel services would still be handled by NOAA's office in Rockville, Maryland). There is clearly a technical capability in this commercial sector to conduct geophysical surveys. NOAA's past experiences with chartering vessel services have been predominantly short-term fisheries projects. Long-term contracts for bathymetric surveys potentially could be cost effectively conducted by geophysical contractors. For specialized bathymetric capabilities such as SEABEAM, availability of long-term contracts would allow a vessel owner to construct and equip a vessel properly with a state-of-the-art multibeam sonar swath system. FISHERIES Although not as specialized as hydrography, fishery research and surveys do require large dedicated shipboard arrays such as trawling rigs and fish-handling gear. At the same time, laboratories and science accommodations are required, often typical of an environmental research vessel. Ship sizes range from small (100 feet) to medium (220 feet). Here NOAA chartering experience in certain regions has proven successful through the contract use of existing fishing vessels and experienced fishermen. The chief difficulty, other than laboratory space and scientists' accommodations, has been that charters are often sought during periods of peak fishing activity when suitable ships may not be available. Fishery Surveys Under the Magnuson-Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was charged with managing the fishery resources in the Fisheries Conservation Zone (FCZ) and the EEZ and with assuming the responsibility for protection of marine mammals and endangered species. Therefore, fishery surveys are conducted for a variety of reasons. They include, but are not limited to, monitoring the condition of existing fishery stocks, forecasting the future conditions of fishery stocks, and searching for and developing data on new harvestable stocks, as well as looking at the conditions of the environment in which these resources occur.

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25 Ship specifications for a fishery survey with respect to length, beam, draft, displacement, horsepower, cruising speed, and range depend on whether the ship is to be used for a single-purpose or multi-purpose mission. Generally, fishery cruises require multi-purpose vessels to collect fishery data and environmental data in order to assure that the fishery data will be meaningful. The degree of sophistication of the multi-purpose vessel is dictated by the overall objective of the mission. Therefore, onboard facilities should include equipment necessary to handle fishery gear as well as bathymetric, hydrographic, and bottom surveying gear, and other facilities and equipment to accommodate the needs of other missions. Appendix E contains a project description and lists the major equipment for a fishery resource survey. The fishery surveys are so varied in their data requirements there is no one fishery vessel with a single set of gear capable meeting the objectives of all missions. A variety of ship types be considered depending on specific missions and combinations of specific missions. All ships should have ancillary equipment including state-of-the-art navigation, weather, and communication systems. All instrumentation should be monitored and maintained by qualified electronic technicians. Some fishery surveys could be chartered. The short-term nature of certain fishery stock assessment surveys would make them likely candidates for chartering. Possible projects would be those in which compatibility of data with existing long-term data sets would not be an issue. More appropriate types of fishing cruises for ship chartering would include short-term studies requiring the use of highly specialized vessels and gear. A fine example would be the recent experience of NMFS in chartering a purse-seine vessel and its associated spotter airplane to conduct red-fish tagging studies in the Gulf of Mexico. In any attempt to contract out these surveys the NOAA Program Office must be extremely specific as to the services to be purchased. Some inherent dangers exist in contracting out these surveys. It appears from past experiences that ships are generally available in the Northwest, may or may not be available in the Gulf, and are generally not available in the Northeast. The perception that vessels are available in the Northwest and Gulf may not be accurate. When fishing is good, generally the best vessels are not available for charter. Therefore, in many cases one would have to choose a less desirable vessel to carry out the survey or realize that there simply may not be a vessel available for hire. Because of the need for continuity in the data, it would make the data highly suspect if a different type of vessel was employed each year. As many of the variables as possible must be held constant so that data are comparable from year to year. Charter options could include vessels with crews and NOAA-furnished scientists to carry out the surveys, or bare boats with NOAA-furnished crews and scientific personnel. The last option could be in the form of a lease-purchase arrangement which would provide for replacement of vessels in the aging fleet. sample that of should

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26 The type of charter undertaken would dictate the disposition of the resulting data collected. Whatever method or combination of methods are used, all data acquisition should be carried out in an efficient manner. Organizations such as the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) provide examples of existing efforts to enhance efficiency in fishery data acquistion. SEAMAP is a planning group composed of state and federal scientists in the Gulf of Mexico whose charge is to plan and coordinate the collection of fishery data independent of commercial and recreational sources and to eliminate the duplication of effort between the federal, state, and university fishery scientists. Projects such as this should be developed with the federal fishery scientists so that the states and universities may be brought into the survey planning activities. This will ensure that collected data may be analyzed efficiently, expeditiously, and without duplication of effort. OCEANOGRAPHIC AND ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH In contrast to hydrography, this area can involve a wide range of investigations. Ship requirements can include smaller research vessels (less than 120 feet) for shelf and estuarine research. These vessels can be found at a number of academic institutions as well as state agencies. Ship size requirements can also range from intermediate (150 feet) to large (300 feet) and include good sea and station-keeping characteristics, large well-equipped science laboratories, accommo- dations for large scientific parties, and extensive outfitting for at-sea work. Although there are few suitable vessels in the private sector, the opportunity for a long-term commitment could enhance the availability of suitable vessels. Chartering in oceanographic and atmospheric research is applicable to operation of the ship platform only. Contractor operation of the scientific mission is not considered to be a possible option. Conduct of the science presently involves rotating parties from a wide range of laboratories and programs including those of the federal government, universities, and the private sector. Any scheme to replace this arrangement by a unilateral contract operation is neither sound nor feasible. Approximately i5 percent of the total ship days-at-sea provided by the NOAA Fleet currently supports oceanographic and atmospheric research. Vessel support is funded for research programs that investigate biological, geological, physical, chemical, and meteorological parameters in the open ocean, coastal waters, and estuaries. Most cruises involve participation by a variety of federal, academic, and other NOAA and non-NOAA cooperative researchers. Vessels that support oceanographic and atmospheric research programs must have multidisciplined capability. They must be able to perform water-column sampling, make underway current measurements, make weather observations, collect bottom sediment samples and cores, perform subbottom profiling, make gravity and magnetics measurements, collect plankton samples, and, in some cases, perform bathymetric

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27 mapping. These vessels also must have the laboratory space, scientific accommodations, and deck-handling equipment to support a wide variety of at-sea activities. The multidisciplined nature of this mission area is indicated by the names of the projects supported by the NOAA Fleet: o Equatorial Pacific Ocean Climate Studies (EPOCS) o Spreading Center Processes (VENTS) o Radioactively Important Trace Species (RITS) o World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) o Sea Ice Processes (ICE) o Fisheries Oceanographic Cooperative Experiment (FOCI) o Acid Rain o Subtropical Atlantic Climate Studies (STAGS) o Marine Environmental Quality (MEQ) o National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) o Tropical Oceans/Global Atmosphere (TOGA) Unlike bathymetric mapping and fisheries resource assessments, vessel support requirements for oceanographic and atmospheric research cover a broad spectrum of vessel capability and size. Open-ocean cli- mate studies and deep-ocean geological investigations require the ex- tended range, equipment, and endurance capabilities of NOAA's Class I vessels, while the near-shore and estuarine environmental quality projects are supported from smaller vessels such as Class IVs. The availability of charter vessels to support NOAA's oceanographic and atmospheric research activities will depend on the complexity of the project, scientific party accommodations, deck handling equipment, and the need for specialized equipment. One extreme of the oceano- graphic and atmospheric research vessel support requirements spectrum is characterized well by the VENTS project (project description in Appendix E). This project requires accommodations for 26 scientists and a lengthy list of equipment, including a deep-ocean, multibeam swath surveying system and a deep-ocean traction winch with 42,000 feet of working wire. In addition, the VENTS project requires at least 30 days of at-sea endurance and deck space for two portable oceanographic laboratories. Over the years NOAA has outfitted the Class I vessels and trained their officers and crew to perform such complex projects. Based on interviews with private vessel operators, vessels that can provide such capability under short-term charter arrangements are not available outside the Federal Oceanographic Fleet. Long-term charter arrangements may entice private vessel operators to build vessels meeting such complex requirements if the terms of the contract are - suitable and if NOAA can establish policy for multiyear contracting. The other extreme of the oceanographic and atmospheric research vessel support spectrum is more likely a candidate for charter. Project RITS is an example of a project that involves sampling fewer parameters closer to shore and therefore requires less existing capability aboard the vessel (project description in Appendix E). The project involves primarily atmospheric and upper-water column sampling with limited analysis being done aboard the vessel. Endurance, scien- tific party accommodations, instrumentation needs, and deck-handling

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28 equipment requirements for projects such as RITS can probably be satisfied by existing charter vessel capabilities. NOAA's oceanographic and atmospheric research projects will fall somewhere between the VENTS project and the RITS project on the spectrum of complexity and vessel support requirements. To determine the applicability of charter vessel support for specific oceanography and atmospheric research projects, NOAA will need to evaluate charter c r - J alternatives and vessel requirements on a project-by-project basis. The probability is lower of finding charter vessels adequate to support complex project requirements such as VENTS. However, less demanding projects can probably be supported by charter vessels if the contracting mechanism is available. In conclusion, fisheries surveys have had a longer history of successful chartering experience, especially in the Pacific Northwest where project-oriented fisheries work is conducted. However, bathy- metric surveying of the EEZ and certain general oceanographic and atmospheric research programs are also strong candidates for long-term contractual operations by the private sector. Given the objectives and operating procedures for bathymetric surveys and general oceanographic and atmospheric research programs, and the experience of various industries with contract operations for marine scientific investigation, chartered vessel operations could be efficient and cost-effective. Industry has many established contractors, who not only have had many years of marine scientific-investigation operating experience around the world, but also maintain large research facilities and staff These organizations could be ideally suited for contractor consideration by NOAA.