State to purchase £23m marine research vessel


The Taoiseach has authorised purchase of the State's largest marine research vessel which will be built at a cost of £23 million. The 65.5-metre RV Celtic Explorer will be six times bigger than the existing research ship, RV Celtic Voyager, when it is delivered in September 2002 from Damen Shipyard in the Netherlands.

The new ship will be "multipurpose", equipped to carry out fisheries surveys, oceanographic work, environmental monitoring, acoustic research, oil recovery support and deployment of instrumentation.

It will be one of only three in Europe to comply with specific "silent" surveys of fish stocks, approved by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This means it will be designed with noise characteristics to muffle sound.

The vessel will be based in Galway and will be used by the Marine Institute, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), many other State agencies and universities. It will also be available for charter work with other European research institutions.

To date, most research in Irish waters has been conducted by foreign vessels, and the new ship will reverse this trend significantly, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Mr Fahey, said yesterday.

The national seabed survey is currently being undertaken by two ships contracted to the GSI. Both are owned and run by Global Ocean Technologies Ltd (GOTECH), which was contracted by the GSI as manager of the £21 million initiative.

The RV Celtic Explorer is committed to a "strategic role" in the seven-year seabed survey, according to the Marine Institute. It will also have a vital role in facilitating scientists working on sustainable fish-stock management.