Presently, it is uncertain whether some of these personnel and equipment will remain in the community as the major oceanographic programs end. These groups and facilities need to be systematically evaluated to decide if they should be given the status of national facilities (e.g., maintained for use by the research community as a whole). One model for supporting such a facility is the AMS, which is supported by a combination of block funding from NSF and a per-sample user cost. Similar to what is done for ships, a thorough review of the other facilities (existing and proposed) and procedures for establishing and maintaining them is necessary to set priorities for support of facilities used by the wider oceanographic community. The NSF/OCE Office of Facilities and Ships should take the lead in providing periodic interagency reviews of facilities and should make these findings available to all agencies and community.
The research fleet, which includes many vessels with unique capabilities such as the JOIDES Resolution or Alvin, is a major component of the scientific infrastructure available to the oceanographic community. The fleet's continued development was undoubtedly influenced by the needs of the major programs. UNOLS administers most of the ship time used by the major U.S. oceanographic programs. There was also some use of NOAA vessels. The UNOLS fleet consists of 28 ships ranging from small (<150 feet) to large (> 200 feet). Major programs tend to use the larger platforms since they usually require many scientists to be at sea simultaneously, and often require more specialized facilities that are only available on the larger vessels. For example, in 1994 the major programs used 782 days of UNOLS ship time with 608 of those days on the large vessels (Fig. 4-1). There was no major program use of small research vessels from 1992 to 1996. Major program ship use grew steadily from 12 days in 1988 to more than 280 in 1991 and was approximately 1,000 days in 1996. This represented about 20 percent of the UNOLS annual total ship days. The projection for 1998 and beyond is for major program ship days to drop to less than 500 per year. This decline in use will affect primarily the large ships, which, because they are more costly to operate, will have a major impact on the community.
The most frequent problem major programs have had with ships is scheduling, especially for the HOTS time-series work. There were also problems with the impacts of the scheduling changes on cruise logistics. Changes in cruise ports and vessels caused large shipping and transportation costs that were often borne by the research project. That, in turn, reduced the funds available for science. Initially, the planning of the various field programs involved long-range coordination with the research fleet. Delays in the programs and the consequent slippage in the schedule for the field components of the program created difficulties with ship scheduling. However, SSCs and most of the website respondents