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This is an artist's rendering of the NSF regional class research vessel awarded to the east coast oceanographic consortium, led by the university of Rhode Island. Credit: Glosten Assocates

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium, led by the University of Rhode Island's (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography, to operate a new oceanographic research ship, one of only three such vessels in the nation.

Owned by NSF and valued at over $100 million, the Regional Class Research Vessel will be constructed in Louisiana, delivered to Rhode Island in 2021 and home-ported at URI's Narragansett Bay Campus.

"This significant investment in the nation's scientific research recognizes URI's half-century of leadership in the field of oceanography and its long-standing and fruitful collaborations with partner institutions," said URI President David M. Dooley. "No doubt the new vessel will help researchers, educators, students and the public gain a richer understanding of our planet and stimulate exploration that will lead to discoveries we can't yet imagine."

"This is tremendous news for the Consortium members, URI, and the state of Rhode Island," said Bruce Corliss, dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography. "This new ship and our consortium will provide cutting edge technology and exciting new opportunities for research, education and outreach in ocean science and exploration."

The East Coast Oceanographic Consortium, whose members include URI, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of New Hampshire School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering -- along with 12 associate members -- submitted a proposal in April to operate one of three new NSF research vessels that will enhance and update the nation's Academic Research Fleet.

"The award of the RCRV to the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium demonstrates the power of collaboration," said Robert Munier, vice president for Marine Facilities and Operations at Woods Hole. "Providing access to the sea for our scientists and engineers is a key mission objective, which the Consortium will now be able to provide for decades to come."

"This is particularly exciting news for the new School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at UNH," said Larry Mayer, director of the school. "As a member of the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium with access to this new state-of-the-art research vessel, UNH scientists will have an unprecedented opportunity to participate in a range of important coastal and deep sea research experiments."

Continuing URI's half century of ocean-going research, the new vessel will support such scientific studies as the tracking of ocean currents and fish migration, seafloor surveys in earth-quake prone regions of the world, conservation of marine mammals or the food-web dynamics in the deep ocean. In addition, the ship will offer educational opportunities to teachers and students from high school through the graduate level, as well as outreach to the general public.

In 2017 NSF awarded the first of the three new research vessels to Oregon State University, which is overseeing design and construction of all three ships. Naval architecture and engineering consultant Glosten Associates is developing the ship design, with input from leading oceanographers from throughout the US. The ships will be built at Gulf Island Shipyards, LLC, in Houma, La.

The new ship will be 199 feet long and 41 feet wide and will feature improved science labs, more workspace, state-of-the-art technologies, and more comfortable berthing. The ship will be able to cruise at 11.5 knots for up to 21 days. It will also include a dynamic positioning system that enables ships to remain in one exact spot for long periods and will allow operation of remote operated vehicles. The ship will carry a crew of 13 and up to 16 scientists and have a cruising range of 5,400 nautical miles.

Regional Class Research Vessels conduct operations in the coastal ocean ranging from near-shore environments to the outer continental rise, as well as the open ocean. The vessel's endurance, draft, ice classification and science mission equipment are tailored for essential science throughout the Atlantic Ocean and adjoining seas.