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Science at Sea: Meeting Future Oceanographic Goals with a Robust Academic Research Fleet
DESIGN CHARACTERISTICS AND DESIGN DRIVERS
Table 4-2 displays ship design characteristics that are dictated by science needs as well as other characteristics inherent to setting future mission requirements that may have a significant cost impact. These design drivers are assessed by their priority (1-9, with 9 being the highest), established by the scientific community, and by their degree of ship impact (low-high), assessed by naval architects (UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee, 2003b; Dan Rolland, personal communication, 2009). A “high” impact means that the ship’s capital cost will increase if that requirement is met. For example, dynamic positioning is important for many types of science missions and has a large impact on ship design. The thrust delivery and control required add significantly to the ship construction cost, but given the high associated priority, dynamic positioning is likely to be an investment with widespread use. Conversely, aiming for higher ship speeds also has strong impacts on ship construction cost, but with a much lower priority. This indicates that when ship mission requirements are set, care should be taken to fully justify any speed that is on the steep side of the power curve. A corollary impact of higher speed is greater fuel consumption, leading to increased operating cost, and greater fuel tank volume, which can increase ship cost.
Efficiency is a vital consideration in the design of future oceanographic ships. Seeking a design with high propulsion efficiencies will lead not only to a lower operating cost but to a “greener” ship. Efforts to be more environmentally friendly often result in the addition of equipment to reduce emissions, which requires space in and adds weight to the ship in addition to its own costs, increasing ship construction costs. However, the potential for stronger regulations on emissions in particular local or regional areas (exist in the North Sea Sulfur Oxide Emission Control Area; International Maritime Organization, 1997) will affect ship design requirements and will not be achievable with current UNOLS vessels. Future oceanographic ship design may have to anticipate this by creating space and weight to comply with as-yet-undefined requirements or by accepting construction and operation cost increases associated with emission reduction measures. Other control measures, such as a carbon tax, could also drastically change the economics of traditional propulsion plants.
Recent increases in fuel costs dictate that high priority should be given to improving propulsion plant efficiency and reducing ship hull resistance. Many recent academic research vessels, such as Atlantis and Kilo Moana, have used some form of electric propulsion, and currently the Navy is contemplating shifting its combatant fleet toward integrated