I read an interesting piece recently that referred to my “long silent” blog that I took as a good reminder of my goal to do my best to keep people informed about the progress of the construction of the RCRVs. Note the lack of parenthesis around the “s” there that I normally use when referring to our project scope. I’m happy to note that for FY19, Congress has appropriated NSF “$105 million for the continued design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV).” That doesn’t actually guarantee “three” RCRVs but at least two look to be in the cards. So it seems like NSF’s solicitation for operators for the second and third vessels will continue. Proposals are due, by the way, on 19 April. So if you’re interested, you better get busy proposing! I’ll be at the UNOLS Research Vessel Operators Committee meeting next week where I’ll be presenting the status of the RCRV build to the academic research vessel operators (including prospective RCRV #2 & #3 operators) from around the nation.
Since my last post, we’ve had another Quarterly Meeting and I’m happy to say that it was very productive. We had good discussions and it was time well spent. That’s not to say the project is without challenges, however; there’s always something to deal with. But the good news is that OSU and GIS continue to work very well together in solving those challenges. As I read that, I can see that sounds a little “fluffy” or a little like some non-speak that a politician might use. But it’s true. Working with GIS has been great so far. We’ve had a bit of a slow ramp with some of the engineering drawings as part of the DVT process, but that seems to be behind us. The main technical challenge remains what’s always been our biggest challenge: getting everything to fit! There’s a lot that goes into a “capable, modern research ship,” even a regional class size. In fact, it’s the smaller regional class envelop itself that makes it so hard. And it’s the little things that add up to get ya. All wires and cables. The pipes. The HVAC system. All that STUFF takes up room. For example, one trade off we’ve had to make is to reduce the size of our potable water tanks by a few percent so we could pass cables from the engine spaces to the bow thrusters.
It seems like there’s often some unfortunate comprise to make during this phase. For example, it also looks like we might lose our Anchor Pockets that did a nice job securing the anchors while giving the ship nice tight lines. But we needed the internal volume. As it turns out, the space that’s causing the biggest challenge is the Auxiliary Machine Room. That space, unfortunately, is where our Anti-Roll tank is located. And I can tell the engineers are eyeing the volume it’s taking up so they can fit in other required machinery. But when compromises start to cut in to core capabilities of the ship, other alternatives need to be explored.
Changes. We’ve had 5 official contract changes so far, nothing significant. Two, in fact, were credits as we simplified the existing design. We’ve got 5 more in the pipeline and about 5 more beyond that we’re contemplating. All changes have passed through the project’s rigorous configuration control process. Here’s a few of the pending changes: enlarging the chain locker (part of the anchor pocket loss I mentioned), enlarged our portable winch at the request of the science community, re-arranged the winch room to make it more accessible. That’s the idea. Just tweaks far. But necessary, and they will improve the ships and make them easier to operate and maintain. The DVT process was intended to make just these sort of fixes.
That’s it for now. I’ll try not to wait so long before the next entry. Oh, I should add one last piece. It looks like we should start cutting steel this summer. Speaking of steel (and aluminum), that topic might make an interesting post for next time…