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Ireland’s New Marine Research Vessel to Honour Irish Explorer Tom Crean

2nd February 2021
Ireland's new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, the Tom Crean Ireland's new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, the Tom Crean

Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean. Due to be completed in summer 2022, the new state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities, including vital fisheries, climate change-related research, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, which will replace the 31 metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine approved by the Government of Ireland.

As Afloat's Jehan Ashmore reported at the weekend, Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean, after the renowned seaman and explorer who undertook three major groundbreaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th Century which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world, at that time.

An illustration of Ireland’s new marine research vessel, RV Tom Crean, produced by Norwegian architects Skipsteknisk ASAn illustration of Ireland’s new marine research vessel, RV Tom Crean, produced by Norwegian architects Skipsteknisk AS

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. said, “I am delighted to announce the name of Ireland’s new marine research vessel is the ‘RV Tom Crean’, acknowledging the contribution of a legendary Irish Explorer. The new vessel will enable Ireland to undertake critical research work which will support many of the projects outlined in the Programme for Government including fisheries assessment, offshore renewable energy, marine spatial planning, marine protected areas and addressing the challenges of climate change.”

The new marine research vessel will provide year-round service for expanded fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, deep water surveys and support increased research in the Atlantic Ocean. The new vessel will enable 300 operational days at sea each year, and up to 3000 scientist days per year. The new vessel will also enable the Marine Institute to continue to lead and support scientific, high-quality surveys that contribute to Ireland’s position as a leader in marine science.

A native of Annascaul in Co Kerry, Crean volunteered for Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition in 1901 and for his Terra Nova expedition in 1910. During the Terra Nova expedition, Crean made an 18-hour solo journey in desperate conditions to save the life of a fellow crew member and was awarded the Albert Medal for his acts of heroism. In 1914, he joined Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance expedition and, again, he proved himself to be a much-trusted crew member and someone capable of great endurance and heroism.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute said, “The decision to name Ireland’s new research vessel after Tom Crean honours his achievements and gives due recognition to an Irish explorer of international renown. The Institute greatly appreciates the support of the descendants of Tom Crean in this decision. This naming decision also reflects the values of the Marine Institute, the collaborative efforts and achievements of its staff, particularly the service provided by all staff who go to sea.”

Speaking on the announcement today, grand-daughter of Tom Crean, Aileen Crean O’Brien, on behalf of the family, said: “We welcome the decision by the Irish government and the Marine Institute to name their new marine research vessel after Tom Crean, of whom we as a family are very proud.”

Dr Connolly continued, “This new multi-purpose research vessel, the RV Tom Crean will greatly enhance Ireland’s capacity to undertake collaborative research and acquire the data and knowledge essential to managing our marine resources.”

The two Marine Institute research vessels currently in operation, the RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, are among the most intensively used research vessels in the world.

The new vessel will replace the RV Celtic Voyager, which was Ireland’s first purpose-built research vessel and was commissioned in 1997. It has been vital in providing marine scientists, researchers and its crew members with many years of valued experience at sea, expanding and strengthening marine science in Ireland to help inform decisions affecting our oceans. It was joined by its 65-metre sister RV Celtic Explorer in 2003.

The construction of the new national research vessel continues on schedule in 2021 at a total build cost of €25 million, with the build process expected to be completed by summer 2022. Spanish shipyard Astilleros Armon Vigo S.A. was awarded the contract to build Ireland’s new state-of-the-art marine research vessel in 2019, following the completion of the design by Norwegian ship design consultants Skipsteknisk AS.

The new research vessel will be a modern, multipurpose, silent vessel, capable of operating in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The new vessel will be able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time and will be designed to operate in harsh sea conditions. Based in Galway, the vessel will be used by the Marine Institute, other state agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research, seabed mapping and other multidisciplinary surveys. It will also maintain and deploy weather buoys, observational infrastructure and our Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland I.

It will be designed to incorporate the latest proven technologies to ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible, ensuring minimal fuel consumption and minimising the vessel’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

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Marine Institute Research Vessel Tom Crean

Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean after the renowned County Kerry seaman and explorer who undertook three major groundbreaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th Century which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world, at that time.

Irish Marine Research activities

Due to be completed in summer 2022, the new state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities, including vital fisheries, climate change-related research, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, which will replace the 31-metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine approved by the Government of Ireland.

According to Aodhán FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager of the MI, the RV Tom Crean will feature an articulated boom crane aft ([email protected] 10m, [email protected] 15m), located on the aft-gantry. This will be largely used for loading science equipment and net and equipment handling offshore.

Mounted at the stern is a 10T A-frame aft which can articulate through 170 degrees which are for deploying and recovering large science equipment such as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV’s), towed sleds and for fishing operations.

In addition the fitting of an 8 Ton starboard side T Frame for deploying grabs and corers to 4000m which is the same depth applicable to when the vessel is heaving but is compensated by a CTD system consisting of a winch and frame during such operations.

The vessel will have the regulation MOB boat on a dedicated davit and the facility to carry a 6.5m Rigid Inflatable tender on the port side.

Also at the aft deck is where the 'Holland 1' Work class ROV and the University of Limericks 'Etain' sub-Atlantic ROV will be positioned. In addition up to 3 x 20’ (TEU) containers can be carried.

The newbuild has been engineered to endure increasing harsher conditions and the punishing weather systems encountered in the North-East Atlantic where deployments of RV Tom Crean on surveys spent up to 21 days duration.

In addition, RV Tom Crean will be able to operate in an ultra silent-mode, which is crucial to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research purposes.

The classification of the newbuild as been appointed to Lloyds and below is a list of the main capabilities and duties to be tasked by RV Tom Crean:

  • Oceanographic surveys, incl. CTD water sampling
  • Fishery research operations
  • Acoustic research operations
  • Environmental research and sampling operation incl. coring
  • ROV and AUV/ASV Surveys
  • Buoy/Mooring operations

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