The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has been informed by the US Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) that is has been selected to operate AGOR 27, one of two new Ocean Class research vessels to be built by the U.S. Navy.
There are four basic research vessel classes: Global, Ocean, Regional and Local. Ocean Class ships fulfill a critical need in fleet modernization by replacing the currently aging ships with vessels of global endurance, current technological capability, and optimized number of science berths.
"The modernization of the academic research fleet is vital to oceanographic research in the United States," said WHOI President and Director Susan K. Avery. "WHOI is honored and thrilled with the opportunity to continue to serve the ocean science research community at a time when the need for increased ocean observations is so important."
The new ship will serve a pressing need for a general-purpose ship based on the East coast of the United States. The pivotal role that the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans play in Earth's climate system has resulted in an increase in observatory efforts in these areas, as well new efforts to study North Atlantic ecosystems and their sustainability.
WHOI currently operates three ocean-going research vessels, a coastal vessel, and several small craft. In addition, WHOI operates the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF) that currently includes the human occupied (HOV) submersible Alvin and the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason. WHOI is also a leader in autonomous underwater vehicles, including the latest generation research AUV Sentry. Experience gained from the operation of these assets has given the Institution unique expertise in operating and maintaining seagoing research facilities.
"WHOI's outstanding proposal was the unanimous recommendation for operation of the Ocean Class research vessel, AGOR 27," said U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, the chief of Naval research. "I am pleased to continue ONR's long and fruitful association with WHOI as a premier operator of Navy research vessels for the betterment of Navy and our nation's ocean science programs. The Institution's commitments for outfitting and supporting operations of AGOR 27 are welcomed, and will contribute substantially to the overall UNOLS fleet effectiveness."
The target delivery of the vessel is mid-2014. WHOI will coordinate closely with the Navy during all phases of the detail design and construction of the AGOR 27. WHOI's Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations Rob Munier will serve as program director and WHOI's Director of Ship Operations Al Suchy will serve as deputy program director to provide direction and coordination. Once launched and completed, WHOI will operate the vessel under a Bareboat Charter Party agreement with the U.S. Navy.