Woods launches first custom-built research vessel

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Ireland's first custom-built marine research vessel has been launched by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. At yesterday's launch, Dr Woods said the Celtic Voyager would carry Irish marine research "up to and beyond standards in other European maritime states".

The vessel, which was delivered in July, will replace the 24-yearold Lough Beltra as the national research vessel.

The Celtic Voyager cost £1.75 million and was 75 per cent funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

It is equipped with wet, dry and electronic laboratories and will undertake oceanographic and fish stock surveys.

The vessel will also be used to explore mineral resources and to monitor pollution.

The Minister said estimates of turnover and jobs in the Irish marine sector had been conservative. Up to 5,000 jobs and £400 million in extra turnover could be created over the next five years, he said.

"Foreign marine research vessels do six to nine times as much research in Irish waters as we do ourselves . . .

"[This] level of activity in our waters underlines the economic potential of our marine and fisheries resource."

Prof Maire Mulcahy, chairwoman of the Marine Institute, said the previous vessel, the Lough Beltra, was "completely inadequate" for the institute's needs and would be remembered with "nostalgia rather than regret". She said that though the Celtic Voyager had much greater capabilities, it was still limited to about 20 per cent of Ireland's ocean territory.

"We look forward to the day when the Celtic Voyager will be joined by a sister vessel . . . which can work to the full extent of our 220 million-acre sea territory," Prof Murphy said.

Dr Woods promised at the launch to "pursue the case" for a 60-metre vessel with the Government and the European Commission.

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