David Packard – Multi-disciplinary research vessel with AUV/ROV support capability
David PackardAeromarine/Chou Pesqueira

VESSEL REVIEW | David Packard – Multi-disciplinary research vessel with AUV/ROV support capability

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California recently took delivery of a new ocean expedition and research vessel. Designed by Seattle-based naval architecture firm Glosten, the newbuild has been named David Packard in honour of MBARI's founder. It is capable of accommodating diverse expeditions supporting geological, ecological, and biogeochemical research in Monterey Bay, coastal North America, and offshore.

David Packard is a bespoke vessel, customised to meet MBARI’s specific research requirements. The vessel features specific design elements to support MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts as well as general oceanographic research. Its area of operations will encompass the Eastern Pacific off Baja, California, Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Hawaii, and the Gulf of California.

David Packard was required to be a versatile ship to enable creative assembling and changing science payloads at sea; joint ROV and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) operations on the same cruise; switching between exploration tools rapidly at sea depending on what is discovered; and switching to alternate missions when the ROV cannot be launched.

The vessel will support oceanographic science missions, which entails dynamic positioning for long periods to support ROV dives or CTD casts, bottom mapping at eight knots, deep-sea mooring deployments, AUV launch and recovery, and water/bottom sampling.

“We worked closely with MBARI operators and scientists to develop the design for the vessel,” Will Moon, Naval Architect at Glosten, told Baird Maritime. “The goal was to understand their science missions and operational limitations so that we could provide a vessel that met as many of those requirements as possible.”

Comprehensive suite of ROV/AUV support facilities

Among the key features of the vessel is the hangar, which houses the ROV. It is launched through a side Baltic door using a dedicated launch and recovery system (LARS). The Baltic door is split into an upper and lower part, with independent activation, allowing the lower door to be closed when the ROV is deployed. This provides a drier and safer hangar area during typical 12-hour ROV deployments with only a two-metre freeboard.

Surrounding the hangar is the ROV workshop, a wet laboratory, and the ROV control room. It has seating for the ROV pilot, copilot, chief scientist, three observers, and three additional scientists or technicians.

Directly below the hangar is the ROV traction winch system enabling heave compensation and power regeneration back to the AC switchboard. The winch has approximately five kilometres of umbilical, enabling ROV dives down to 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).

“In addition to handling the ROV, the vessel is configured to support AUV launch and recovery with the main ship’s crane,” added Glosten Naval Architect Tim Leach. “A dedicated, always-attached docking head with a constant, tension-lifting winch holds the AUV securely in place during launch and recovery to and from the main deck.”

David Packard Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Glosten
David Packard

The aft deck is sized and arranged to be flexible and to support as many different missions as possible. There is a 170-degree articulating A-frame, a bolting grid for portable equipment, and dedicated locations for three containers. There are two additional labs for computer work, one on the main deck and one below.

“MBARI needed David Packard to have an operational range of 4,000 nautical miles at cruising speed, as well as a 21-day endurance,” said Moon. “The cruising speed is 10 knots and top speed is 11.5 knots, and there is room for 12 crew and 18 scientists. The dimensions of the vessel were restricted by its home harbour to a length of 50 metres (160 feet), beam of 12.8 metres (42 feet), and a draught of 3.65 metres (12 feet).”

Improved performance with minimal environmental impact

Requirements for the vessel included custom underwater radiated noise spectrum limits. Through careful analysis of foundations and installation of machinery, it was achieved at the survey speed of eight knots. The limit is defined as Environmental (E) Quiet Cruise curve at frequencies between 10 Hz and 800 Hz, and Acoustic (A) criteria at frequencies between one and 100 kHz.

The exhaust stacks are virtually inaudible on deck. The noise produced by the vessel overall has also proven to be minimal, resulting in "pleasantly quiet" interior and exterior spaces.

David Packard Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Glosten
Some of the aft deck equipment on David PackardGlosten

“MBARI also required the vessel to be as efficient as possible, leading to many strategic design and equipment selection decisions,” said Leach. “These include variable-speed power generation, high-efficiency permanent magnet propulsion motors, waste heat recovery from the engines, an optimised hull form to reduce resistance, high-efficiency thruster units, and a high-strength steel hull and aluminium superstructure to save weight.”

MBARI operates out of the California port of Moss Landing, which is a small port with firm limits on length, beam, and draught. For Glosten, developing a vessel that could support the desired mission and capacities and also meet the stability requirements and size limitations was a challenge.

“Glosten was also hired to provide owner’s representation services at the shipyard in Vigo, Spain,” Moon told Baird Maritime. “Our project manager and design lead moved to Spain to support MBARI through the construction, which took place over a span of two and a half years. Having part of the design team in the shipyard during construction created a very good learning opportunity, as the lessons, big and small, have been directly applied to another vessel based off this design and other research vessel designs we have underway.”

David Packard was acquired as a replacement for the earlier MBARI aluminium SWATH vessel Western Flyer, which had been in service for 25 years. Although the earlier vessel had good seakeeping and could support ROV operations, its high freeboard and limited deck area restricted its ability to support a broader range of general science missions. The newer vessel also has energy-saving features and modern engines that comply with strict California Air Resources Board emissions requirements.

David Packard Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Glosten
Crew messGlosten

The vessel boasts a diesel-electric configuration, with three MAN IMO Tier III/US EPA Tier IV generators of 629 ekW each. The generators are variable speed and thus variable frequency, allowing operations with improved efficiency. An estimated seven per cent fuel savings can be achieved with this installation.

The generators are outfitted with heat recovery silencers to provide waste heat throughout the vessel. It is used to create potable water with two evaporators, heat the domestic potable water, and provide heat for the accommodations, the laboratories, and the hangar.

Also fitted are two Schottel SRP260 L-drive units with fixed-pitch propellers in nozzles and 530kW permanent magnet motors. The solitary bow thruster is a ZF Marine 3000 RT retractable unit with a 300kW motor. When retracted, it operates in a tunnel and when deployed, it operates as a nozzled thruster.

“The L-drive propulsion units are bottom-mounted and can be removed completely from the vessel while in drydock,” said Leach. “Shaft, rudder, propeller, nozzle, and motor can all come out in one piece without the need to perform any realignment when reinstalling.”

Fully equipped for multiple research types

The electronic equipment includes a Teledyne acoustic Doppler current profiler, a Sonardyne acoustic navigation and tracking system, and a Kongsberg package consisting of a DP system, single-beam and multi-beam survey systems, and a sonar synchronisation unit. ABB meanwhile supplied the machinery alarm and control system.

The deck equipment includes a LARS, a winch and an A-frame from MacGregor and a Palfinger crane able to reach the entire foredeck. This crane will be used primarily for loading supplies while in port.

The ROV LARS has a six-tonne capacity and is fully integrated with the umbilical traction winch. Automatic launch and recovery is possible through a custom control system.

“Being only a 50-metre research vessel, launching a six-tonne ROV over the side has its challenges including both the size of the space required and from a stability standpoint,” said Leach. “The hangar is 6.55 metres ( feet) tall and takes up two-and-a-half decks.”

David Packard Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Glosten

“A modern research vessel needs to have an advanced computer network,” said Moon. “There are 14 network racks installed on board and over 30 kilometres of copper and fibre network cables, installed to provide MBARI with a very capable, flexible, and highly integrated network system.”

As interconnection is at risk of cyber-attacks, MBARI chose to adopt the DNV Cyber Secure Essential (+) notation, including cyber security measures for all vital systems, the DP system, the CCTV system, and an overall review of all interconnected systems installed on board. David Packard is only the second vessel on the DNV register to have this notation, and it is the first to be built with it in Europe.

David Packard Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Glosten
David Packard

“Meeting the requirements took significant efforts by many parties including the shipyard, the network designer, and installer Tica Plus, dozens of supporting vendors, and Aeromarine as an independent cybersecurity expert,” Moon told Baird Maritime. “It also required an owner dedicated to the cause, and a class society with the knowledge to enforce a logical set of rules.”

David Packard will operate primarily in Monterey Canyon, necessitating only short transit times to deep water. Because of this, 75 per cent of vessel operations will occur with dynamic positioning.

“The stabilisation system consisting of Quantum Maglift 380 rotors was chosen to provide dynamic roll stabilisation while the vessel is operating at zero transit speed,” said Leach. “It consists of two rotating cylinders operating on the Magnus effect to stabilise the vessel, making scientific operations safer and improving crew comfort.”

Baird Maritime / Work Boat World