It will also form a critical part of the State’s maritime infrastructure, supporting the Government’s national integrated marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, as well as the National Marine Research and Innovation Strategy.
“There are many challenges posed and threats in relation to our oceans and research is an intrinsic part of formulating a sustainable approach to the use, understanding and management of our oceans,” said Marine Minister Michael Creed.
“The funding of the new vessel demonstrates the Government’s commitment to expanding and strengthening marine science in Ireland to ensure our nation is equipped with the best scientific advice possible to enable a strong negotiating position and to maximise economic opportunities in a sustainable manner.”
Dr Peter Heffernan, chief executive of the Marine Institute, welcomed the signing of the research vessel design contract following an extensive EU tender process.
“The institute is on track and on budget with the design of the new vessel, which will provide critical national infrastructure and marks a major milestone in the Marine Institute's efforts to provide world-class marine science.
“The significantly enhanced capabilities of the new research vessel will help researchers, educators, students and the public gain a richer understanding of our ocean and will facilitate exploration that will lead to discoveries that stretch the bounds of our imagination.
Dr Heffernan added that “this significant investment in the nation’s scientific research recognises the Marine Institute's quarter-century of leadership in the field of oceanography and its long-standing and fruitful collaborations with partner institutions.
“The new vessel will enable us all to more efficiently explore, collaborate, and conduct global ocean research.”
Based in Galway, the vessel will be used by the Marine Institute and other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, seabed mapping, oceanographic and environmental research and surveys, as well as student training.
Skipsteknisk AS are specialists in the design of highly advanced ships and are recognised internationally as leading designers in the research, fishing and offshore sectors.
The nature of marine equipment has changed significantly since the launch of Ireland’s first research vessel, the RV Celtic Voyager back in 1997
That’s according to Mick Gillooly, director of ocean science and information services with the Marine Institute.
“The new research vessel will be 50m long and will feature state-of-the-art technologies enabling a wide range of work including ocean monitoring, fish stock assessment and seabed surveying. This new vessel will be a silent research vessel, and will be designed to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research.
“In addition, the vessel will be designed to operate in the harsh conditions encountered in the NE Atlantic and will be able to spend 21 days at sea. It will also support the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle operations, which enable the exploration of our deep ocean down to 3,000m.”
Once the design phase is complete, the next phase is to tender for a shipyard to construct the vessel. This is expected to be complete by the end of this year, with delivery of the new vessel expected in early 2022.