Aug 5, 2022 | Ship design & naval architecture news

San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography has selected naval architecture and marine engineering company Glosten as the naval architect for the university’s new California coastal research vessel.

The new vessel will have a first-of-its-kind hydrogen-hybrid propulsion system. Glosten will provide the preliminary design, contract design, and detailed design for the research vessel to be operated by Scripps Oceanography.

Bruce Appelgate, associate director and head of ship operations, Scripps Oceanography, said: “This vessel will be the first of its kind, and the selection of the naval architect is a major milestone for Scripps. Fundamentally, our ships have to be reliable and capable in order to support the innovative research our scientists conduct at sea. On top of that, the ship we envision needs to demonstrate that zero-emission power systems work effectively under demanding real-world conditions. It’s the job of the naval architect to provide the necessary engineering, design, and integration skills needed for this project to succeed on every level.”

California legislators allocated US$ 35m towards the design and construction of this vessel. When complete, the vessel will serve as a platform for education and research dedicated to understanding the California coast and climate change impacts to the coastal ecosystem.

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G Atkins said: “I am proud to see Scripps Institution of Oceanography arrive at the critical milestone of selecting a naval architect for this one-of-a-kind hydrogen-hybrid research vessel. Scripps and California continue to set the global standard for developing innovative solutions to address our most pressing environmental challenges. This vessel will play a critical role in supporting policy decisions to protect our state’s precious coastal environment from climate change impacts, while demonstrating hydrogen’s critical role in California’s carbon-free future.”

As a student-centred, research-focused public university, seagoing experiences are a cornerstone of educational programs at UC San Diego. This new vessel will continue the university’s educational mission to train the next generation of scientists, leaders, and policymakers. It is envisioned that the vessel will carry up to 45 students and teachers to sea on day trips, improving the university’s capacity for experiential learning at sea. The new vessel will replace R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, which has served thousands of University of California students in its 42 years of service but is nearing completion of its service life.

Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said: “Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s hydrogen-hybrid coastal research vessel is a significant demonstration of California’s commitment to fighting climate change, decarbonising our blue economy, and improving air quality for port-adjacent disadvantaged communities. The selection of a naval architect is an important step in bringing this innovative project to reality.”

The hybrid-hydrogen design of this new vessel represents an innovation in the maritime industry. Development of this and subsequent zero-emission vessels is essential to the University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the goal to be carbon neutral by 2025. This new vessel will feature an innovative hybrid propulsion system that integrates hydrogen fuel cells alongside a conventional diesel-electric power plant, enabling zero-emission operations. The design is scaled so the ship will be able to operate 75% of its missions entirely using a non-fossil fuel—hydrogen—with only pure water and electricity as reaction products. For longer missions, extra power will be provided by clean-running modern diesel generators. The vessel represents a major step in advancing California’s pledge to reduce global climate risk while transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy.

The proposed 125ft vessel will be equipped with instruments and sensing systems, including acoustic Doppler current profilers, seafloor mapping systems, midwater fishery imaging systems, biological and geological sampling systems, and support for airborne drone operations. These capabilities will enable multidisciplinary research, advancing our understanding of the physical and biological processes active in California’s coastal oceans.

Scripps Oceanography has worked with Glosten previously, initially more than 60 years ago on the design of Research Platform FLoating Instrument Platform known as FLIP. Glosten was also involved in the midlife refit of R/V Roger Revelle, a US$ 60m renovation that advanced the scientific capability and service life of Scripps’s largest ship.

The anticipated schedule for design and construction includes one year to complete the basic design. Following US Coast Guard approval of the design, the university will select the shipyard where the design will be constructed. Construction and detail design will likely take an additional three years. When completed, it will join the fleet of vessels managed by Scripps including the Navy-owned research vessels Sally Ride and Roger Revelle, which conduct global oceanographic research, and the R/V Bob and Betty Beyster, a nearshore scientific workboat. All research vessels are stationed and maintained at the university’s Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma.

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