Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Research ship launched

ALL ABOARD:The ocean research vessel boasts a range of different functions and could help improve the precision of earthquake forecasts in the future

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The Ocean Researcher V, the largest ocean research vessel designed and built in Taiwan, is pictured at Greater Kaohsiung’s Singda Harbor yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Ocean Researcher V, the largest ocean research vessel designed and built in Taiwan, was officially handed over to the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) yesterday.

The 2,700 tonne ocean research vessel, measuring 72.6m in length and 15.4m in width, has a boarding capacity of 18 crew members and 30 scientists and is now docked at Greater Kaohsiung’s Singda Harbor.

The vessel was funded by the National Science Council (NSC), which commissioned the task to the NARL’s Taiwan Ocean Research Institute (TORI).

TORI’s Deep Ocean Exploration Division manager and associate researcher Yang Yih (楊益) said the Ocean Researcher V differs from the three existing ocean research vessels because of its expanded tonnage, which gives it enough resistance to cope with strong waves caused by the northeast monsoons in the winters and allows it to gather research data that in the past was difficult to collect.

Moreover, the vessel’s maximum endurance is expanded to 50 days and a maximum range of 13,000 nautical miles (24,076km) for each single expedition, Yang said, adding that its core mission is not limited to fundamental ocean science research and that it can also perform the government’s ocean energy exploration assignments.

TORI’s Nearshore Observation and Modeling Division and Marine Exploration Technology Division manager and researcher Yang Wen-Chang (楊文昌) said the vessel is scheduled to make research expeditions for a total 250 days a year. Of these 250 days, 100 days would be allotted to academic science research projects funded by the NSC, while the remaining 150 days would go to the NARL’s research projects, governmental assignments or business sector research trips.

TORI director-general Kao Chia-chuen (高家俊) said the two special features of the Ocean Researcher V are its propelling force — which relies on electricity, allowing it to move slowly yet quietly, traits necessary for conducting precise detection operations — and its dynamic positioning system — which allows it to remain steadily at a single spot at sea, undisturbed by strong winds or waves.

In addition to its observational capabilities, such as high-resolution imaging of the sea bed, the vessel can also collect samples deep under the sea’s surface with the use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which can go as deep as 3,000m, Yang Yih said, adding the ROV is planned to be used in research projects exploring sea-floor gas hydrate near southern Taiwan.

Lu Pei-ling (呂佩玲), deputy director of the Central Weather Bureau’s seismology center, said TORI has also agreed to use the new vessel to assist the bureau with the maintenance of submarine cables off the coast of eastern Taiwan, which would improve the precision of earthquake forecasts in Taiwan.

At present, NT$1.82 billion (US$61 million) has been spent on the vessel, while an additional NT$600 million to NT$700 million is to be spent on the acquisition of more research equipment, Kao said.

The vessel is scheduled to embark on its first expedition in January next year, while adjustments to the existing equipment, purchase of new equipment, as well as further training for the crew members, would continue in the coming months, he added.

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