New marine research vessel to be named after Antarctic explorer Tom Crean

Multi-purpose €25 million vessel due for delivery in 2022 and will be based in Galway

Ireland's new marine research vessel, which is due to be completed in the summer of 2022, is to be named the RV Tom Crean in honour of the famous Antarctic explorer.

The multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities including the study of vital fisheries, climate change impacts, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre vessel, which will replace the 31-metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Spanish shipyard Astilleros Armon Vigo SA was awarded the contract to build the vessel in 2019, following completion of the design by Norwegian ship consultants Skipsteknisk AS; total build cost is €25 million.


Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue said he was delighted the vessel is to be named in memory of Crean, who had participated in expeditions which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world.

The vessel "will enable Ireland to undertake critical research work which will support many of the projects outlined in the Programme for Government including fisheries assessment, offshore renewable energy, marine spatial planning, marine protected areas and addressing the challenges of climate change", he said.

Seabed mapping

It will provide a year-round service for expanded fisheries surveys, seabed mapping and deep water surveys, and support increased research in the Atlantic Ocean, enabling 300 operational days at sea each year and up to 3,000 “scientist days” per year.

A native of Annascaul, Co Kerry, Crean volunteered for Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery expedition in 1901 and for his Terra Nova expedition in 1910. During the Terra Nova expedition, he made an 18-hour solo journey in desperate conditions to save the life of a fellow crew member and was awarded the Albert Medal for his acts of heroism. In 1914, he joined Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance expedition and, again, he proved himself to be a much-trusted crew member and someone capable of great endurance and heroism.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly said the institute greatly appreciated the support of the descendants of Tom Crean in this decision.

“This naming decision also reflects the values of the Marine Institute, the collaborative efforts and achievements of its staff, particularly the service provided by all staff who go to sea,” he noted.

Crean's granddaughter, Aileen Crean O'Brien, on behalf of the family, said: "We welcome the decision by the Irish Government and the Marine Institute to name their new marine research vessel after Tom Crean, of whom we as a family are very proud."

Intensively used

The two Marine Institute research vessels currently in operation, the RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer, are among the most intensively used research vessels in the world. The former, Ireland’s first purpose-built research vessel, was commissioned in 1997 – and joined by its 65-metre sister in 2003.

The new vessel will be “a modern, multipurpose, silent vessel, capable of operating in the Irish exclusive economic zone”. It will be able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time and is designed to operate in harsh sea conditions.

Based in Galway, it will be used by the Marine Institute, other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research, seabed mapping and other multidisciplinary surveys. It will also maintain and deploy weather buoys, observational infrastructure and the institute’s remotely operated vehicle Holland I.

It is designed to incorporate the latest proven technologies to ensure it operates as efficiently as possible, ensuring minimal fuel consumption and minimising the vessel’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times