More than three decades ago, marine scientists in the United States first identified the need for a research vessel capable of bringing scientists to Alaska’s icy northern waters.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced its intent to award a $123 million contract that will meet that need. The university has selected Marinette Marine Corporation of Marinette, Wis. to build the 254-foot Alaska Region Research Vessel. When complete, the vessel will be one of the most advanced university research vessels in the world and will be capable of breaking ice up to 2.5 feet thick. According to project leaders, the ARRV’s home port will be in Alaska, most likely at UAF’s Seward Marine Center.
The $123 million for the ship construction contract is funded entirely by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The total cost for the project is $200 million.
The vessel will be owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by UAF as part of the U.S. academic research fleet. It will be used by scientists in the U.S. and international oceanographic community through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. The vessel was designed by The Glosten Associates, a marine architecture firm in Seattle.
After the ship has been completed, the crew will take the vessel from the shipyard through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway transit system and the Panama Canal to Alaska in 2013. While in transit, scientists and crewmembers will test the scientific components of the ship in preparation for unrestricted science operations beginning in 2014.