MAY 24, 2016—Family-owned Duckworth Steel Boats, Tarpon Springs, FL, has been contracted to build a new 78 ft research vessel for the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO), according to naval architecture firm Boksa Marine Design, Lithia, FL.
Boksa Marine Design (BMD) signed a contract with FIO in February 2015 for the design of a brand new vessel to replace its current research vessel, the 48-year-old R/V Bellows.
Originally built in 1968, the R/V Bellows has been operated by FIO as a research boat since 1979 as a floating laboratory for scientists and students studying in the waterways of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas.
FIO is a Florida Academic Infrastructure Support Organization, collaboratively working with 27 educational institutions and agencies from across the state to maximize marine research and education resources.
The goal of the FIO is to “provide a forum for addressing the challenges facing our oceans and develop strategies for promoting greater understanding, scientific advancement, civic engagement, natural resource management and public policy which preserves and protects ocean resources.”
According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, $6 million in funding to build the new ship is made of $3 million from the State of Florida, $1 million from FIO, $250,000 from the City of St. Petersburg, and a combination of 12 Florida schools that have used the R/V Bellows over the last five years.
The new design will address the limitations of a vessel that was built more than 40 years ago and has become increasingly more expensive to maintain. Similarly, the design will ensure the vessel meets the known and anticipated requirements of varied research missions in the years to come.
At 78 ft in length and 26 ft at the beam, the new ship will be both longer and wider than its predecessor. The design will offer the new vessel more working space, including separated wet and dry labs, a larger work deck, separate galley and more comfortable arrangements for berthing.
Anticipated missions for the new vessel will include a variety of over-the-side operations including water sampling, bioacoustics, sediment coring, and fisheries research.
“We’re excited to be a part of this new project. The vessel has a rich history of scientific education and discovery and we hope the new boat will continue the institute’s ongoing mission,” says Nick Boksa, president of Boksa Marine Design.
Design plans were finalized in October 2015. Since that time, Boksa Marine Design has been working with the FIO’s Ship’s Advisory Committee on its shipyard bid package as well as the shipyard selection process.
A keel laying ceremony will be held at Duckworth Steel Boats on June 1, 2016. Completion of the boat’s construction is estimated to take between 12 and 24 months.
During construction, Boksa Marine Design will provide detailed engineering and construction oversight. In 2014, BMD also provided systems and mechanical engineering services for FIO’s other research vessel, the 115 ft R/V Weatherbird II.