Tue, Sep 03, 2019 - Page 3 News List

New fleet to boost nation’s capability to research ocean

Staff writer, with CNA

A new fleet of marine research vessels is expected to be formally established in the first half of next year, helping Taiwan to expand its capability in marine and oceanographic research and boost the nation’s efforts to develop its own shipbuilding industry, experts familiar with the project said.

The fleet is to include the 2,385-tonne Legend, and three new research vessels, two 454-tonne ships and one 1,000-tonne.

The two smaller vessels, the New Ocean Researcher II (NOR II) and the New Ocean Researcher III (NOR III), are expected to be delivered this month or next month, and go into service in the first quarter of next year, while the larger New Ocean Researcher I (NOR I) is expected to be delivered early next year and go into service in the second quarter.

Given Taiwan’s abundant coastal ecosystems and diverse ocean-floor environments, the fleet would facilitate studies of ocean currents and help with national defense, National Taiwan University Institute of Oceanography director Jan Sen (詹森) said.

The fleet would be a milestone in the indigenous shipbuilding program, with the design and construction of the new vessels undertaken by CSBC Corp, Taiwan, Jan said.

The experience of building ships would allow CSBC to take orders from abroad for marine research vessels and further boost the local shipbuilding industry, he said.

Taiwan’s other three active ocean research vessels, named the OR I, OR II and OR III, are outdated and lack advanced observation equipment, while the Ocean Researcher V sank off Penghu after striking a reef in stormy weather on Oct. 10, 2014.

In January last year, the Ministry of Science and Technology launched a NT$1.6 billion (US$51 million) plan and contracted CSBC to build the three new research vessels.

After the ministry takes delivery, the new vessels are to be handed over to National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Ocean University and National Sun Yat-sen University.

The Legend is operated by the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL).

A committee for the new fleet, which is comprised of officials from the ministry, the Ocean Affairs Council and the ships’ management units, would be established to coordinate the dispatch of the vessels, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Shieh Dar-bin (謝達斌) said.

The Legend is mainly used for national research projects, while the new ships are to conduct missions depending on the needs of their respective universities.

The Legend has a deep-sea remotely operated vehicle that can reach depths of 3,000m, NARL Taiwan Oceanic Research Institute Director Wang Chao-chang (王兆璋) said, adding that it can be used for deep-sea exploration and sampling.

It is also equipped with a sea-floor seismic observation system to conduct earthquake research, Wang said.

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