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Renewal of the Academic Research Fleet

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Ocean research depends upon access to the sea—whether for exploration, monitoring, or experimentation. Access to the sea by academic scientists occurs primarily through the use of research vessels in the U.S. Academic Research Fleet. As the scientific discipline of oceanography has grown over the past several decades, our fundamental need for dependable observations of the ocean has not diminished. Research vessels continue to serve as the critical platforms for those observations, even as oceanographers expand the types and extent of observational and experimental approaches to include systems as diverse as satellites, remotely-operated vehicles, and molecular probes. As we look at the next ten to twenty years of scientific research into ocean processes, we must consider the advanced observational and experimental capabilities that scientists will expect from the Academic Fleet. The clear definition of those capabilities and requirements then can guide the design and construction of the next vessels in the fleet.

The imminent retirements (by 2015) of over half the existing UNOLS fleet poses a significant challenge for implementation of the several new initiatives in ocean science, including ocean observing systems, ocean drilling, and multi-disciplinary expeditionary programs. Some of these vessels could (and likely will) continue operations beyond their scheduled retirement dates, but with greater maintenance costs and diminishing capabilities to conduct modern ocean science.

The Fleet Renewal Plan, developed by the Federal Oceanographic Facilities Committee in 2001, addresses this major challenge and provides a pathway for sustaining our national capabilities for ocean research through the construction of new Regional and Ocean Class vessels. The National Science Foundation has begun the design process for the first of the Regional Class vessels, but no funding mechanism has yet been identified for constructing the Ocean Class vessels defined by the Fleet Renewal Plan. We urge continued strong support for full implementation of the Fleet Renewal Plan.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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