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MBARI to build new flagship research vessel

Written by Marine Log Staff
Blue and white ship

Design rendering of the R/V David Packard. Illustration: Glosten © 2021 MBARI

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has selected Freire Shipyard in Vigo, Spain, to build its new state-of-the-art research vessel. It is to be named R/V David Packard, in honor of MBARI’s founder, Silicon Vally pioneer David Packard, who founded Hewlett-Packard (HP) in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage with Bill Hewlett, and whose philanthropic endeavors included funding the creation of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1984. Three years later, he founded MBARI as an independent institution committed to pursuing cutting-edge ocean science and engineering programs.

Funding for the new vessel comes from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The R/V David Packard will be 50 meters (164 feet) long and 12.8 meters (42 feet) wide with a draft of 3.7 meters (12 feet). It will support a crew of 12, plus a science crew of 18.

It will replace the R/V Western Flyer, MBARI’s flagship research vessel, which will be retired in fall 2022 with the arrival of the new vessel.


Planning for MBARI’s acquisition of a new research vessel began in 2009. MBARI’s marine operations team engaged Seattle headquartered naval architectural and marine engineering consultancy Glosten to design the vessel. For the past three years, MBARI’s marine operations team has worked closely with Glosten’s team of engineers to refine design specifications for the R/V David Packard.

“Supporting the Western Flyer over the years created great opportunities for Glosten to demonstrate our capabilities in support of the MBARI mission. Working as partners to design this next-generation research vessel was especially rewarding. We look forward to continuing our support of MBARI throughout the vessel construction and into the future,” said Morgan Fanberg, Glosten president.

Glosten provided the design and specification services for the shipyard bid package and assisted in the bid review process. As construction gets underway, Glosten will provide the on-site construction team for MBARI, providing MBARI continuity through the life of the ship.

The final design work will get underway this spring, with keel laying at Freire expected by November 2021 and the vessel’s launch in September 2022. Construction should be complete in May 2023, when the vessel will depart Spain for its journey to its homeport of Moss Landing, Calif. MBARI’s marine operations team will conduct the final fitting out and testing of the ship before science operations begin in fall 2023.

The R/V David Packard will join MBARI’s two existing research vessels, the R/V Rachel Carson and R/V Paragon.


“MBARI’s mission to explore and understand the ocean is more important than ever, especially in light of the growing threats of climate change, overfishing, and pollution,” said Chris Scholin, MBARI president and chief executive officer. “This new state-of-the-art research vessel will expand MBARI’s reach and enhance our research, engineering development, and outreach efforts.”

The new research ship will enable continued exploration of the deep sea, from the midnight zone—the depths below 1,000 meters (about 3,300 feet)—to the abyssal plain, with MBARI’s deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts. As the command center for the ROV Doc Ricketts, the David Packard will allow researchers to continue exploring the deepest reaches of the Monterey Canyon and beyond.

Design rendering of the launch of a remotely
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