The RV Celtic Explorer, a multi-purpose deep-sea research vessel was commissioned at Galway Docks by Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. “As an island nation we have a vast and largely unexplored marine resource - more than ten times our land area” said Mr. Ahern. “The commissioning of the Celtic Explorer means that for the first time Ireland has the capability to explore the full extent of its marine territory and generate the knowledge necessary to unlock its full potential.”
The ship’s first mission will be to deploy a new weather buoy off the coast of Donegal. The M4 weather buoy will be the fourth in a network of five databuoys deployed and serviced by the Marine Institute around the Irish coast which provide hourly information updates on weather and sea conditions to Met Eireann to improve safety at sea.
The Celtic Explorer will work on the National Seabed Survey, one of the world’s largest and most ambitious seabed surveys, from the end of April to October. The mapping project will produce baseline maps of Ireland's offshore territory that will act as building blocks for industry and academia. Its applications are broad including telecommunications, underwater slope hazard maps, mapping of habitats and other geological features, and protection of areas of scientific interest such as the Atlantic deep-water coral Lophellia.
The new research vessel will play a significant role in fisheries research, which Marine Institute scientists, together with their European counterparts, will use to provide advice for the rebuilding of fish stocks and shaping the recovery of the resource. The Celtic Explorer is the quietest research vessel in the world, meeting international underwater noise requirements for fisheries research. This is necessary to ensure highly accurate fish stock surveys, which are carried out using acoustic equipment, and ensures that the fish are not disturbed by the noise of the vessel.
The commissioning of the RV Celtic Explorer will enhance Ireland’s ability to conduct co-operative international surveys in north east Atlantic. In November 2003, the new vessel will carry out a comprehensive 45-day groundfish survey of the shelf area (15 to 500m) in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and off the west coast of Ireland. This survey will link up with the Scottish research vessel RV Scotia in the north and the French research vessel RV Thalassa in the south, giving a comprehensive view of the abundance and distribution of fish stocks from the Bay of Biscay to the Shetlands. The survey results will be used in international stock assessment and monitoring the state of the ocean ecosystem.
The RV Celtic Explorer is a deep-sea research vessel, which can stay at sea for up to 45 days accommodating 31 crew and scientists. The laboratories and data management system onboard allow information to be collected and processed at sea and quickly relayed back to scientists, governments and industry groups to inform management decision on the sustainable development of the marine resource.
The Celtic Explorer will complement the research capability of the Celtic Voyager, Ireland’s first custom-built multi-purpose research vessel designed for coastal surveys, which was commissioned in 1997. Both vessels are owned and managed by the Marine Institute on behalf of the state.
Marine Institute is hosting an exhibition at Galway docks Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th April alongside the Celtic Explorer and the Celtic Voyager. Both vessels will be open to the public from 12pm to 6pm Saturday and Sunday offering a unique opportunity to visit Ireland’s national research vessels and meet the crew and scientists that work onboard. They will demonstrate the work they undertake onboard including fish stock assessments, environmental monitoring, the National Seabed Survey, deploying and servicing weather data buoys to increase safety at sea.
Mr. Ahern congratulated the Marine Institute “on excellent project management delivering the vessel on time and on budget. In the last eight years, we have managed to overtake eighty years of turning our backs on the sea. Ireland now has two purpose-built marine research vessels, open & competitive research programmes for industry, state and third level institutions, investment programmes in marine industry, a vibrant scientific community and the beginnings of a new hub for marine research and investment at Oranmore. If we can go as far in the next eight years as we have in the last eight, then Ireland will become a centre of excellence for marine research and investment second to none."
The design of the research vessel was the result of collaboration between the Marine Institute, Marine Technical & Development Services (MTDS) Ltd. and Skipstecnisk, Norwegian Naval Architects.