VIDEO: Freire launches new MBARI flagship research vessel

Written by Nick Blenkey
New MBARI research vessel

MBARI tweeted this image of the new research vessel in the water following its launch at Freire Shipyard.

Construction of the R/V David Packard, the new flagship research vessel under construction at the Freire Shipyard in Spain for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) reached a major milestone October 27 when the yard launched the vessel into the waters of Vigo Bay.

The research vessel will be 50 meters (164 feet) long and 12.8 meters (42 feet) wide with a draft of 3.7 meters (12 feet). The ship will have capacity for 30 people, including a crew of 12 and a science crew of 18. As the command center for the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts, the David Packard will allow researchers to continue exploring the deepest reaches of the Monterey Canyon and beyond. The new ship will also be capable of deploying a variety of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to conduct visual and acoustic surveys, sample seawater, and map the seafloor.

The R/V David Packard will replace the R/V Western Flyer, which completed its final mission on October 6, and will soon begin a new chapter as a sailing classroom for the Florida Institute of Oceanography.

MBARI’s new research vessel honors the legacy of the institute’s founder, Silicon Valley innovator David Packard, who encouraged MBARI to leverage technology to better understand the ocean.

At the launch ceremony, members of the Freire family were joined by representatives from MBARI and the vessel’s designer, Seattle headquartered naval architect firm Glosten.

“The R/V David Packard will be the first state-of-the-art research vessel built not only in Spain, but in the European Union, intended to operate in the waters of the United States of America and will comply with a number of completely specific and unique requirements, both functional and operational,” said the yard’s general director, Marcos Freire, adding that the launch “will become part of the history of this family-owned company forever.”

“The R/V David Packard will expand MBARI’s research capabilities as a multi-mission vessel that can support not only remotely operated vehicles to observe life in the ocean but also various types of autonomous systems to assess ocean health,” said Michael Kelly, MBARI’s director of marine operations. “We’re excited to reach this important milestone in construction and look forward to welcoming this new ship to our fleet next fall and the exciting new science it will enable for our team.”

“Glosten has a long history of supporting MBARI vessels, including the R/V Western Flyer, the predecessor to the R/V David Packard. We’re grateful to be able to continue our relationship with MBARI through the design and construction of their new research vessel” said said Tim Leach, director of engineering at Glosten and principal-in-charge of the project. “A lot of work and planning has gone into the project, so it’s great to see it hit the water.”

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