Around £24million is set to be spent on a new ship to conduct marine research in Northern Ireland.
Currently, the research is being conducted by a ship called the RV Corystes, which was built in 1988 but is reaching the end of its useful life.
A process has now begun that will see a new, state-of-the-art ship being built to continue this work for at least the next 30 years.
Last year, Norwegian shipbuilder Skipsteknisk A/S secured the £1.8million contract to design the new vessel.
A tender was issued looking for a shipyard to build the replacement for the RV Corystes. The value of this contract has been estimated at £22m and it is expected that it could take up to 30 months for the ship to be built.
The new ship will be owned by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), an independent body of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
The AFBI said the new ship is expected to be delivered by “late 2024”.
“We are currently going through the process of selecting yards with the aim of appointing a yard later in 2022, subject to budget availability,” the spokesman said.
“The project schedule is subject to change as the start of construction depends on the capacity of the contracted shipyard at the start of the project.”
Once the new vessel is commissioned and operational, the AFBI intends to sell the RV Corystes.
Operating from the Port of Belfast, RV Corystes provides a platform from which to conduct a wide range of fisheries and marine environmental research.
“Our seas and oceans are vital to our existence and provide us with a rich array of economic, social and cultural benefits, including food, energy, trade routes and tourism,” said an AFBI spokesman.
“A fit for purpose, modern research vessel is essential to delivering our marine science and underpinning local and international policies for the sustainable management of fisheries and other ecosystem resources in the Irish Sea and coastal Northern Ireland, as well as meeting legal obligations and underpinning policies related good environmental status and associated healthy marine environment, marine conservation and marine spatial planning.
“There will also be benefits in areas such as marine tourism, marine conservation, renewable energy, aquaculture and aggregate extraction.
“The ship also plays a pivotal role in providing an emergency response service to marine pollution incidents, helping to protect the marine environment and coastal communities.”
There are currently three vessels involved in marine research in Ireland, one in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic.
The two vessels operated by the Marine Institute in Galway on behalf of the Irish Government are the RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager.
But the Celtic Voyager, which entered service in 1997, is also approaching the end of its service life and is due to be replaced by a new ship later this year.
The construction of this ship continues at the Astilleros Armon Vigo SA shipyard in Spain. The ship, which is due to be completed this summer, cost 25 million euros to design and build. It was also designed by Skipsteknisk A/S.
The Republic’s new marine exploration vessel will be named RV Tom Crean in honor of Kerry-born Antarctic explorer.
A spokesman for the Marine Institute said its new ship is expected to enter service in late summer after it completes its construction and science trials.
Crean took part in three of the four British Antarctic expeditions led by Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton between 1901 and 1916.
Crean volunteered for Scott’s Discovery Expedition in 1901 and his Terra Nova Expedition in 1910. During the Terra Nova expedition, the Kerry man made an 18-hour solo voyage in desperate conditions to save the life of another crew member and was awarded the Albert Medal.
During Shackleton’s 1915 Endurance Expedition, Crean and the rest of the crew abandoned the ship after it became trapped in the ice and managed to sail in three small boats to remote Elephant Island.
Crean and five companions, including Shackleton, then sailed 800 miles to South Georgia to raise the alarm before returning for those left on the island.
The Endurance story made headlines again this month after scientists found the wreck on the seabed.
After his adventures, Crean returned to his homeland where he ran a pub called the South Pole Inn. It remains a popular bar in the village Annaskaul.
https://www.independent.ie/news/northern-ireland-sea-research-vessel-to-be-replaced-at-cost-of-24m-41491307.html Northern Ireland marine research vessel to be replaced for £24million