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‘Oceans of Learning’ Celebrates the Future of Marine Research with the RV Tom Crean

1st June 2022
The RV Tom Crean in Spain where it is undergoing final sea trials before delivery to Ireland Credit: MarineInst/Twitter

In the lead-up to World Oceans Day next Wednesday 8 June, this week the Marine Institute’s Oceans of Learning series looks to the future of marine research with the arrival of Ireland’s new research vessel, the RV Tom Crean.

Sea trials have commenced on the new 52.8m state-of-the-art research vessel in the Ría de Vigo estuary in Spain, which is one of the final stages before its delivery to Ireland.

The vessel build was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and on completion the RV Tom Crean shall replace the RV Celtic Voyager, which came into service as a marine research vessel in 1997.

The RV Tom Crean will provide a year-round service for expanded fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, deep-water surveys, oceanographic and environmental research. The multipurpose research vessel will enable 300 operational days at sea each year and up to 3,000 scientist days per year.

“We are delighted with the progress on the build of the RV Tom Crean, and it’s heartening to see the vessel build entering into these final stages on schedule and on budget,” Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly said.

“The new vessel will be a huge asset in continuing to lead and support high-quality scientific surveys that contribute to Ireland’s position as a leader in marine science, far into the future.”

The vessel is designed to incorporate the latest proven technologies to ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible, with reduced fuel consumption and minimising the vessel’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

It will be a silent vessel, capable of operating throughout the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and will be able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time.

Based in Galway, the vessel will be used by the Marine Institute, other State agencies and universities to undertake research and surveys and it will also maintain and deploy weather buoys, observational infrastructure and the institute’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland I. It will accommodate up to 26 personnel on board, including 14 scientists.

The new vessel is named after Tom Crean, the renowned seaman and explorer who undertook three major ground breaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th century. These sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore what were, at the time, unreached areas of the world.

Key milestones in the ship’s build include the laying of the ship’s keel in November 2020 and the completion of the ship’s hull in September 2021. This latter phase of the project involved upwards of 70 personnel working during some of the stages, which included the joining of the 32 individual hull units, installation of the vessel generation sets, electric propulsion motor, dock equipment and the vessel’s unique silent seven-bladed propeller.

In November 2021, the RV Tom Crean made its momentous first splash when its hull was launched at the Astilleros Armón shipyard in Vigo, Spain.

Work continued on the ship build during winter 2021 and spring 2022 with sea trials beginning last month. The Marine Institute website has a handy timeline of the ship’s build process.

Oceans of Learning is also celebrating the legacy Ireland’s other marine research vessels, the RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RV Tom Crean
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Marine Institute Research Vessel Tom Crean

Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean after the renowned County Kerry seaman and explorer who undertook three major groundbreaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th Century which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world, at that time.

Irish Marine Research activities

Due to be completed in summer 2022, the new state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities, including vital fisheries, climate change-related research, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, which will replace the 31-metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine approved by the Government of Ireland.

According to Aodhán FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager of the MI, the RV Tom Crean will feature an articulated boom crane aft ([email protected] 10m, [email protected] 15m), located on the aft-gantry. This will be largely used for loading science equipment and net and equipment handling offshore.

Mounted at the stern is a 10T A-frame aft which can articulate through 170 degrees which are for deploying and recovering large science equipment such as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV’s), towed sleds and for fishing operations.

In addition the fitting of an 8 Ton starboard side T Frame for deploying grabs and corers to 4000m which is the same depth applicable to when the vessel is heaving but is compensated by a CTD system consisting of a winch and frame during such operations.

The vessel will have the regulation MOB boat on a dedicated davit and the facility to carry a 6.5m Rigid Inflatable tender on the port side.

Also at the aft deck is where the 'Holland 1' Work class ROV and the University of Limericks 'Etain' sub-Atlantic ROV will be positioned. In addition up to 3 x 20’ (TEU) containers can be carried.

The newbuild has been engineered to endure increasing harsher conditions and the punishing weather systems encountered in the North-East Atlantic where deployments of RV Tom Crean on surveys spent up to 21 days duration.

In addition, RV Tom Crean will be able to operate in an ultra silent-mode, which is crucial to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research purposes.

The classification of the newbuild as been appointed to Lloyds and below is a list of the main capabilities and duties to be tasked by RV Tom Crean:

  • Oceanographic surveys, incl. CTD water sampling
  • Fishery research operations
  • Acoustic research operations
  • Environmental research and sampling operation incl. coring
  • ROV and AUV/ASV Surveys
  • Buoy/Mooring operations

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