The University of Victoria (Canada) will use a portion of $13.3 million in funding provided by the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund for ocean research projects to refit the former Coast Guard vessel Tsekoa II for ocean research in the Strait of Georgia and off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The ship will rely on an all-electric propulsion system that will be powered by batteries, fuel cells and low-emission diesel generators. These diesel generators will only be used when power demands are high during long-distance cruising or submersible operations.
Ownership of the Tsekoa II was recently transferred to UVic from Fisheries and Oceans Canada where the vessel was used for maintenance and fishery patrols by the Canadian Coast Guard.
The Tsekoa II was built in 1985 by Allied Shipbuilders of Vancouver for Public Works Canada, which used it to support the construction, maintenance and repair of buoys, docks and other structures in small harbors along the BC coast. It was sold to the Canadian Coast Guard in the early 1990s.
The ship is currently 26.7 meters long and 7.25 meters wide at the beam. For the refit, the ship will be cut in half and a new section will be inserted at mid-ship to bring the total length to 33 metres. This new section will include a science lab and additional berths to accommodate 15 crew and scientists.
The ship will be equipped with A-frames, winch pads and cranes for deploying plankton nets, scientific instruments and remotely operated vehicles. A portable multi-beam sonar system will allow high-resolution mapping of the seafloor. The rear deck will also feature a customized “wet lab” built into a shipping container that can be craned on and off the ship as necessary.
In addition to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing the ship’s fuel efficiency, the new drive system will also permit acoustically sensitive research operations—such as marine mammal observations or studies of sound in the ocean—without requiring power from noisy diesel engines.
The new green ship technology is a collaboration between UVic’s green transportation research team and BC’s marine engineering and alternative power system sectors. The ship will be a floating testbed for this new hybrid technology and is expected to open new niche markets in the marine sector.
The refitting contract will go out for bids early in 2011. The refit is expected to take several months. It is hoped that the ship will be relaunched and in service by late 2011. Its new name has not yet been determined.
The ship will be a regional facility, serving the needs of researchers from UVic and four partner institutions—the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Island University and the University of Alberta. When not in use by these institutions, the ship will be available for charter by other university and government researchers.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has provided matching funds for the refit of the former Coast Guard vessel and expansion of the VENUS network.