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Construction has begun on a new research ship that will advance the scientific understanding of coastal environments. Credit: NSF/OSU

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Construction began November 7 in Houma, Louisiana, on the R/V Taani, a new research ship that will advance the scientific understanding of coastal environments by supporting studies of ocean acidification, hypoxia, sea level rise and other topics.

Operated by Oregon State University (OSU), Taani (pronounced "tahnee"), a word that means "offshore" in the language of the Siletz people of the Pacific Northwest, will be the first in a series of Regional Class Research Vessels funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Officials from NSF, OSU and Gulf Island Shipyards, LLC gathered for the keel-laying ceremony, marking the start of fabrication of this state-of-the-art ship.

"NSF is proud that Taani will be the flagship for a new class of research vessels, and we eagerly anticipate decades of productive oceanography from Taani to support the nation's science, engineering and education needs," says Terrence Quinn, director of NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences.

During the ceremony, former OSU president John Byrne and his wife Shirley, the ship's ceremonial sponsors, inscribed their initials into the ship's keel.

Research missions aboard Taani will focus on the US West Coast. NSF has funded OSU to build a second, similar research vessel, which will be operated by a consortium led by the University of Rhode Island.

"This new class of modern vessels will support future research on the physical, chemical, biological and geologic processes in coastal waters," says Roberta Marinelli, dean of OSU's College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. "The research is critical to informing strategies for coastal resilience, food security and hazard mitigation not only in the Pacific Northwest but around the world."

For example, the ship will be equipped to conduct detailed seafloor mapping to reveal geologic structures important in subduction zone earthquakes that may trigger tsunamis.

The 199-foot Taani will have a range of more than 5,000 nautical miles, with berths for 16 scientists and 13 crew members; a cruising speed of 11.5 knots; and a maximum speed of 13 knots. The ship will be able to stay at sea for about 21 days before returning to port and will routinely send streams of data to shore via satellite.

NSF selected OSU to lead the design, shipyard selection, construction and transition to operations for as many as three new Regional Class Research Vessels for the US Academic Research Fleet. The National Science Board -- NSF's oversight body -- authorized as much as $365 million for the project as part of NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction portfolio.

NSF awarded OSU $121.88 million to launch the construction of the first ship. This past summer, the funding was supplemented with an additional $88 million, allowing Gulf Island Shipyards, LLC to proceed with the second vessel.

Taani is scheduled for delivery to OSU in the spring of 2021. After a year of outfitting and testing, the ship will be fully operational.

Source: National Science Foundation