New Research Vessel for UK Marine Scientists

RV Callista arrives at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the end of its delivery voyage from Finland.
RV Callista arrives at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the end of its delivery voyage from Finland.
RV Callistas comprehensively equipped bridge.
RV Callistas comprehensively equipped bridge.
A view of the aft deck looking forward.
A view of the aft deck looking forward.
A view of the Wet Lab looking forward into the Dry Lab.
A view of the Wet Lab looking forward into the Dry Lab.

The University of Southampton 's School of Ocean & Earth Science has taken delivery of the new research vessel RVCallista , which is to be based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), a joint venture between the University of Southampton and the National Environment Research Council (NERC).

The Centre provides all aspects of research, training, teaching, technology and support services in ocean and earth science and hosts the National Oceanographic Library. Formerly the Southampton Oceanography Centre, the facility was renamed in May of this year, reflecting the UK's need for a national focus for oceanography.

RV Callista is also a product of the move towards consolidation, conceptualised as a shared resource with which all parties will 'work together as one'. Students at the School of Ocean and Earth Science will be the primary beneficiaries of the new craft, which has become operational just in time for the new academic year. Student fieldwork will be RV Callista 's priority but it will also be used by the NERC for research and the testing of marine research instrumentation which may then be fitted to its larger deepsea vessels. The vessel will also pay for its keep by being available for hire by commercial customers approximately six weeks of the year.

The 19.75m LOA aluminium hulled catamaran was built in Finland by the Tyovene Oy yard following an international competitive tendering process.

Tenders were received from yards across Europe and other continents but the decision went to Tyovene Oy on the basis of quality, specification and price. The yard had recently delivered boats to Sussex Sea Fisheries and the Irish Coastguard. These vessels were visited and inspected by a University team, which was impressed by the yard's exceptionally high build standards. An extensively detailed specification listing everything the boat would require when operational was included on Tyovene Oy's European tender.

The list included details as small as buckets, brooms, bedding, towels, crockery, cutlery and even duvets.

RV Callista 's skipper Graham Etheridge, who was closely involved in the purchasing decision, told Maritime Journal , 'For the University, Tyovene Oy were spot on because all costs were included in the package and they were far cheaper than most of the others who were only offering the basic boat. Then when we looked at the quality of their work they really stood out.'

RV Callista features a beam of 7.4m and a draft of 1.6m, three main working areas and a capacity for up to 30 passengers. Built to Workboat code 2 and Passenger Class 4 & 6, it triples the amount of time students can spend on the water compared with the University's much smaller boat RV Bill Conway , which carries 12 passengers and remains in service.

The aft working deck features a port side folding lifting ramp, enabling wheelchair access which carries on to a deck-accessed head and both a wet lab amidships and a dry lab forward. The lifting ramp can also lower divers into the sea or retrieve casualties. There are 100kg davits on either side of the aft deck, manually operated on the starboard side and electrically to port. The deck itself incorporates a matrix of 24 mm bolt down points which secures equipment interchangeably with larger research vessels. Unusual for a Category 2 workboat, RV Callista boasts a four ton stern mounted 'A' frame for deploying research equipment, a huge boost in capacity over the one ton 'A' frame on RVBill Conway . There is a 1,500kg Spencer Carter capstan on the aft deck and lugs are welded into the deck both fore and aft for lifting the vessel out of the water.

Also on the aft deck is a 1m diameter moonpool for deploying instruments and sieving mud samples. From conception the vessel has been designed to take the bottom and dry out whilst still being able to operate a 240V and 400V AC generator and hydraulic systems. This generator is accessed from the aft deck on the port side whilst the starboard side gives access to a workshop.

The rear of the superstructure houses the disabled access head with shower facility at deck level starboard while to port there is a storage and drying area. Mounted on the rear of the superstructure are 240V AC 16a and 32A outlets for the working deck as well as outlet for 415V/32A three phase and hydraulic power for deck mounted winches such as slip ring scientific winches.

Centrally off the aft deck is direct entry into the Wet Lab area featuring self draining non-slip floors and hot and cold fresh water as well as saltwater on tap. A fridge/freezer is available for storing samples. Cable trays are designed to allow trunking access into cabin spaces and there are data ports throughout the vessel enabling laptops to access RV Callista 'scomputer network. There is warm blown air and electrical heating, smoke and heat alarms in all areas.

Progressing forwards is the Dry Lab, with an array of computers and work stations spreading from a centrally spaced, rack mounted logger and server. The Techsas logging software by French firm Ifremar is also on the deepwater survey vessels operated by NERC's Ocean Engineering Division.

An extensive array of scientific equipment on board interfaces with Techsas and has the ability to record client instrument data alongside ship scientific equipment and navigation data. The computers are run off an inverter so cannot lose power.

All other instruments are also permanently powered and there is no need to shut down when (for example) switching from shore to generator power.

From the Dry Lab there is access to below both port and starboard. On both sides there is a cabin for two with escape hatches to the forward deck. Below the bottom bunk on the port side is a freshwater tank. On this side aft of the cabin is a fully fitted galley with a MiniSoftEx water vapour drenching system above the oven and rings.

Through the galley is a storage space which also contains a moonpool through which an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) can monitor the tide through the entire water column at all times.

Moving further aft into the port side engine room, one of the boat's twin 650hp Scania D12 marine diesels takes pride of place, driving an 890 mm Radice S4 bronze propeller through a Twin Disc MGX 51124A gearbox with a ratio of 2.04:1. The electronic throttle control system is the multi-station Twin Disc EC 300 with express mode and hand held remote control. With the same propulsion package also in the starboard engine room, the vessel is capable of 16.5 knots. Both engine rooms have intercom and camera linkage to the bridge and both are CO2 drenched areas.

Behind the port engine is a very small hydraulically driven main genset by Dynaset Oy of Finland.

The space saving three phase and standard genset takes power off the main engines. Behind the engine room is a small air cooled Kubota Nanni 4 220 HE auxiliary genset which can power all on board hydraulic systems with the vessel aground, including an electric standby hydraulic pump which powers davits and winches.

A ladder from this room leads up to the aft deck.

Below the bottom bunk on the starboard side is a black water tank which can be pumped to shore. The storage space aft of the starboard cabin also contains a seawater analysis system which measures characteristics such as temperature and salinity. Between the hulls midships is a 6,000 litre fuel tank. The starboard engine room contains a main engine driven hydraulic pump and an electric pump driven by the Kubota Nanni auxiliary. Aft is a storage area/workshop which came from the builder supplied with a full complement of tools, fuel containers and other accessories.

Again there is access to the aft deck.

Returning to the Dry Lab and ascending a staircase to starboard gains entry to a bridge which would suit a much larger vessel. The bridge contains the navigation and helm positions and a seating area for meetings or debriefings which can sleep another two people as required. The aft seating area can be partitioned from the helm by railed curtains. Next to this area, a door leads onto an aft bridge deck on which a Palfinger PK-4501M hydraulic crane is mounted. This crane will lift 780 kg at 5.3m.

By this door are controls for the 'A' frame's three ton capacity winch. These controls include load sensors and a counter to monitor how much cable is out.

The University has a 7m RIB by Ribtec which the 'A' frame/ winch combination is capable of lifting onto the aft deck.

The engines can be controlled from three positions on the bridge as well as from the working deck using the wired remote control system. The latter feature is especially useful as it enables precise control when (for example) backing up to recover a buoy.

The sophisticated engine control system from Twin Disc, which worked closely with Tyovene Oy on the necessary hydraulics, also has a trolling mode which enables the skipper to select speeds as low as two knots.

Skipper Graham Etheridge is enthusiastic, saying 'The trolling mode works very well and enables the vessel to tow instruments very slowly or stem the tide without the need for continual gear shifting.

Twin Disc worked well with us and the yard to adapt their system to our demanding requirement of having control from five different areas and the need for precise engine control for the different working speeds of the vessel'.

The comprehensively equipped bridge includes Trimble DSM132 DGPS and a Nav PC with an 18in monitor running Transas Navi-Fisher 3000 with a radar interface board and navtex. A LAN has Trimble HydroPro survey software installed. The magnetic compass is a Suunto D135 whilst Simrad has supplied a CZ54D DGPS receiver/plotter/radar/ sounder, AP 50 autopilot with thruster interface, two RD 68 Class D DSC VHF transceivers, an AX 50 GMDSS handheld VHF, and an IS 15 wind system.

There are repeaters in the labs for DGPS, wind and depth.

Although not required for the vessel's tonnage, AIS by McMurdo/Transas links into the Transas Navi-Fisher to effectively computerise the bridge. Radar and AIS is overlayed onto a Simrad chart package. With the autopilot linked to the bow thrusters, the vessel can maintain a heading while not moving and deploying equipment over the stern using the 'A' frame.

Atop the wheelhouse is a full met station, securing points for additional masts, a grid matrix which allows additional equipment to be bolted down, and ducting for cables to the Wet and Dry Labs.

The foredeck is accessed along both sides of the superstructure.

There is access down to the bow thruster and storage space. A chain case has a hydraulic Muir Thor windlass mounted atop it, with a gypsy to the port side. There is an additional mast attachment point and a bow door for the deployment of instrumentation mounted in clear water between the hulls.

Externally there is 'D' ring fendering around the bows and down the gunwales and brackets are mounted both port and starboard which allow bespoke sheets of aluminium and steel to be lifted by the bridge deck crane and slot into 'U' channels to create a heavy duty rigid mounting system for custom designed attachment of equipment such as large swath bathymetry systems.

The detailed planning which went into RV Callista and the standards to which it has been built are truly impressive. The University of Southampton must now have one of the finest and most user-friendly small research vessels in the world. That they got it all for under £1m is the most impressive thing of all.

MJ Information No 21139

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