Ireland set to lead Europe in research vessel productivity

Deck equipment on board the RV Celtic ExplorerIreland’s national research vessels RVCeltic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyagerare set to lead Europe in 2011 with an all time record of 627 days at sea between the two ships, well above the average for equivalent European research vessels.

Their work will range from fisheries surveys to underwater mapping and from climate studies to deepwater surveys with the remotely operated submersible ROV Holland 1.

They will also undertake training missions and carry out essential maintenance work on Ireland’s network of data buoys that, in parallel to their research function, supply the vital information on which weather and shipping forecasts are based.  

You can follow the latest missions of the research vessels at our blog on:

Their increased activity reflects the growing imperative to understand and sustainably manage the economic potential of our offshore marine territories, an area over ten times that of Ireland itself.

research vessel RV Celtic VoyagerCommercial fish stock assessments will be a major part of the two ships’ workload. Between them, the RVCeltic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyagerwill devote 141 days on stock surveys in support of the sustainable management of Ireland’s fisheries.


The RV Celtic Voyager


This will include underwater television surveys of valuable prawn stocks off the Aran Islands and in the Irish and Celtic Seas, work on blue whiting, a survey of herring stocks in the Northwest, as well as the comprehensive fifty-four day annual Irish Groundfish Survey which will take place in stages all around the Irish coast from September to December. This survey, the largest undertaken by an Irish research vessel is essential to provide the scientific data used to inform the annual quota negotiations in Brussels each year. 

The full 2011 schedule for both vessels is available to view here.

“Research vessel surveys are a critical part of the work we do,” said Dr. Paul Connolly, Director of the Marine Institute’s Fisheries Science Services Team. “The survey results are not only used in the scientific assessments of the stocks, but also to inform our meetings with industry through the Irish Fisheries Science Research Partnership (IFSRP) which was established in 2008. This group is not only looking at ways to protect depleted stocks, but also at an “ecosystem approach” to fisheries management, where scientific information and fishermen’s practical knowledge is combined in a holistic way to reach workable solutions.”

The flagship of Ireland’s research vessel fleet RV Celtic Explorer is specially adapted to acoustic fish stock assessment, which employs beams of sound to measure the number, size and type of fish in any particular area. The ship is equipped not only with a virtually silent diesel-electric propulsion system, but it also carries a specially designed “drop keel” that lowers an array of sophisticated sonar equipment below the surface turbulence caused by the passage of the ship’s hull through the water.

Students working on the Celtic Voyager This equipment was used to great effect in the Irish National Seabed Survey, the largest civilian mapping project of its time, that charted Ireland’s undersea territory and produced stunning three-dimensional maps of the seabed.


Student training on board the RVCeltic Voyager

These images comprise what the Institute has dubbed “The Real Map of Ireland”, which now features in a new primary schools atlas and can be downloaded free of charge from the Marine Institute website at  The RV Celtic Voyager will play a large role in educating Ireland’s marine scientists of the future, with nine separate training missions for graduate and postgraduate students from colleges in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Tralee and Ulster.


For further information, please contact: Dr John Joyce
Communications Manager, Marine Institute, 
Phone: +353 87 2250871  

Notes to Editor


Research Vessel RV Celtic Explorer

The RV Celtic Explorer is 65.5m in length and accommodates 35 personnel, including 19-21 scientists. The Celtic Explorer is, in gross terms, six times the size of her sister vessel, the Celtic Voyager.

Ireland's unique strategic position on the edge of the Atlantic means that the Celtic Explorer is able to facilitate both national and international research and exploration. The vessel is based in Galway, which is ideally located as the gateway to the Atlantic and geographically close to the main working areas. Until recently, most research carried out in Irish territorial waters was by foreign research vessels.

Apart from being an excellently designed vessel, fitted with the latest electronics and scientific equipment, the key attributes of the Celtic Explorer are that the vessel is acoustically silent which minimises fish avoidance and provides an ideal environment for the collection of high quality acoustic data with minimal interference from vessel noise. In addition:

  • The vessel is a multipurpose ship, being able to change from a seabed mapping or oceanography programme to a fisheries programme, with relative ease.
  • The vessel has large laboratory spaces and IT rooms fitted with scientific equipment.
  •  She has a full complement of survey equipment and winches.
  • She is adapted to accommodate a variety of Remotely Operated Vehicles including the Deepwater ROV Holland 1.   

Research Vessel RV Celtic Voyager

The Celtic Voyager is a 31.4m multi-purpose research vessel. She has wet, dry and chemical laboratories, which are permanently fitted with standard scientific equipment and can accommodate 6 - 8 scientists with a maximum endurance of 14 days. The vessel is manned by a very experienced crew who are highly skilled with the handling and deployment of scientific equipment.

The Celtic Voyager facilitates the collection of fisheries, geophysical, oceanographic and environmental data and provides practical training for the next generation of marine scientists. This research is of crucial national importance, to ensure the development of Ireland's vast natural resource in a sustainable manner.

Comparisons with 2010 Research Vessel Programme

In 2011, there are 17 surveys scheduled for the RV Celtic Explorer in Irish waters resulting in 344 days at sea and 29 surveys on the RV Celtic Voyager resulting in 283 days at sea.

These figures are well above the average for equivalent European research vessels and reflect the versatility and productivity of the Irish ships and their importance in national and international research and monitoring programmes.

In comparison, in 2010 the RV Celtic Explorer was at sea for 308 days and engaged in total of 18 surveys and as well as undergoing a refit.  A significant proportion of the Celtic Explorer’s days at sea last year were on fisheries surveys (145 in total).  The Celtic Voyager took part in 32 surveys in 2010 which resulted in 280 days at sea