The expressed need for and requirements of the RCRVs go back decades. Like some ancient fossilized bone, early evidence of RCRV pops up in the 1995 UNOLS Fleet Improvement Plan referencing a 1993 workshop on facilities needs. One of the major steps that eventually helped realize the RCRV dream occurred the following millennium when, in 2005, the Navy created a robust “Statement of Requirements” that became the foundation for the first pre-conceptual design request that was issued in 2006. This process culminated in a competitive selection of a high-level design submitted by Glosten in 2009. This design was, in turn, reviewed by the science community and was used ultimately in the issuance of NSF’s solicitation to lead the “design refresh” and construction of the RCRVs that OSU subsequently was selected to lead.
So… here we are in 2017. OSU and Glosten have “refreshed” that 2009 design based on the 2005 Navy requirements. OSU has issued this contract ready package to Gulf Island to construct. The purpose of the Design Verification and Transfer Process that we’re in now, as I’ve mentioned before, is to ensure that the detailed final design is copacetic with the shipyard. Gibbs and Cox is helping to develop those plans. But the “ship’s design” is really a compilation of a number of smaller designs. For example, the ship’s navigational bridge is complex layout of computers, propulsion controls, alarms and monitoring systems, and more. The patents, and trademarks of these subsystems will be owned by the sub-vendor Gulf Island will select for that purpose. The engine room is also a design of designs. Many of the systems there will need to be customized to some degree in order to fit into our working envelope and provide the output specific to the requirements of the RCRV. Neither Glosten, nor Gibbs and Cox, nor OSU or the Gulf Island will be designing these sub-systems. Our propulsion “Single Source Vendor” (see earlier entry) will be doing that.
So who will own the design? These “Intellectual Property” problems as they’re called, can be quite vexing and need to be agreed to contractually with terms amenable to all parties. Since this project is ultimately funded by the National Science Foundation and managed under what’s called “The Uniform Guidance”, certain requirements exist that basically translate to “the taxpayer will be the owner of what the taxpayer (as represented by the NSF and by proxy OSU) pays to develop”. So if a sub-system is developed specifically for the RCRV, the requirement is that the Intellectual Property for that system will be owned by OSU and, ultimately, NSF.
As Gulf Island finalizes their contractual agreements with their Sub Contractors, this is one of the issues that they’re working through. Who will own what. This may not matter so much in the short term, but these vessels are being built to last. If the previous generation of ships they’re replacing is any guide, these could still be sailing in 2070! There’s not a small chance that over the course the ships’ lifetimes that the future operators are going to need to access the underlying code or subsystems that might otherwise be protected by the vendor. But what if the vendor goes out of business?
Lastly, keep our team in your thoughts this weekend! The shipyard is in the 4-day probability cone for the path of Hurricane Harvey. Even if they don’t see the winds, the rain as already started. Hopefully it doesn’t get too flooded.
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