Thursday, November 11, 2010

UVic goes to sea

The University of Victoria (UVic) is acquiring a new research ship. Plans are not final yet, or at least UVic is deferring official comments to an announcement, expected towards the end of this year. What I do know is that UVic is in the final process of "purchasing", or has already "purchased" outright, the Canadian Coast Guard specialty vessel Tsekoa II.

The Tsekoa II was built for the Canadian Federal Government fleet, under the Department of Public Works, in 1984, by Allied Shipbuilders, in Vancouver, BC. The 87 foot long vessel has a 23.75 foot beam and was designed by Vancouver's Robert Allan Limited as a workboat for repairing docks along the BC coast. With the divestiture of port activities from the federal government to local entities in the 1990's, the vessel quickly became surplus to Public Works and was subsequently transferred to the Canadian Coast Guard, which became the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the late 1990's. (ahhh I missed those great years of constant tail chasing by the feds).

She has pretty much sat idle ever since, principally moored at the Institute of Ocean Science (IOS) at Pat Bay, north of Victoria due to chronic and severe lack of funding to operate her on any regular schedule. I actually worked on her back in the early 2000's and found her to be a good sturdy work boat, albeit a day boat, mostly due to her spartan accommodations.

IOS is probably where Tsekoa caught the eye of the UVic scientists, since it is where UVic keeps its other research "ship", the John Strickland. Spokesperson for DFO / CCG has stated that the details of the transfer are in the final stages, and that the DFO / CCG will not be affiliated with the ship in any way, nor does it know where the new base of operations, for the much expanded "UVic fleet", will be located.

The vessel's steel hull and aluminum superstructure has a current GT of 160 tons, with accommodations for 7 crew. Her top speed is 12.2 knots driven by two Caterpillar 3408 TA mains, for a grand total of 670 hp, on twin fix pitch screws. The engines were rebuild in 2005, but I understand the new owners have a grand plan to stretch her by 21 feet, just forward of her engine room, to install some scientific equipment, and probably increase her berthage capacity. Fleet BMT is looking after this alterations, at a yet undetermined shipyard. Local burgeoning company, Tactical Marine, is looking after the operational management of the vessel under a tendered contract.

It appears that the inaction at DFO to replace, much less add, scientific ship capacity has caught the eye of UVic for some time. The science group is very keen and they had identified that the scientific capacity offered by the DFO, to the University, was not going to be adequate for their research goals, so the search for a vessel has been afoot for several years now.

UVic has you may know is at the helm of the recently completed underwater observatory NEPTUNE, off the coast of Vancouver Island (subject of previous post here) and the smaller version, VENUS in Georgia Straight. Both these projects are massive, well funded scientific endeavors, and will undoubtedly required considerable ship time to satisfy the scope of the project.

I understand the goal is to have the ship operationally ready for the 2011 summer scientific season.

As it turns out, the Tsekoa is a very popular little ship, with many copies of it plying the world's ponds. Yes, I am being a bit tongue in cheek here, but the vessel is the subject of a Remote Control model ship design. I wonder if the model maker will change their designs.

You can see one such model in operation, below, from YouTube.


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