New Research Ship in the news

New Barnes Design

R/V Barnes replacement in the News

King 5, online News
Jan. 16th, 2015


SEATTLE - The University of Washington says one of its top priorities for the 2015 legislative session is funding for a new research ship to study environmental changes and also perform fisheries research in Puget Sound and the inland and coastal waters of the Northwest.

The new ship would be about 21 feet longer than the current small research ship, the Clifford A. Barnes, which was built as an ice breaking harbor tug for the U.S. Coast Guard in 1966. In 1983, the university bought the boat and converted it into a research vessel.

Scientists and former skippers say while the 65-foot-long Barnes does well in shallow waters, it is simply not big enough to meet even current demands. When it acquired the vessel, the university had to add a science lab near the aft end that is only 96 square feet. The aft deck is not large enough to hold all the necessary equipment for research.

"If I want to study zooplankton migration and the effect of oxygen depletion and the physics of what's causing the water to do what it does, we can't do all that at the same time," said oceanographer Parker MacCready, a professor in the school of oceanography and one of the members of a scientific committee advising on what's needed on a new vessel.

The Barnes' size makes it more expensive to do scientific research in MacCready's example. Instead of being able to perform multiple projects simultaneously, the Barnes has to go back to port, re-equip and head back out. MacCready says that can double or even triple the cost of scientific work; and unnecessary travel cuts down on science time.

At times, university scientists have had to book the much larger ocean going Thomas G. Thompson to do work off the coast at a cost of $35,000 a day. The Barnes only operates up to the mouth of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. The cost of operating the Barnes is one tenth of the Thompson.

The new vessel would be 21 feet longer than the Barnes, wider with an A frame on the stern to better raise and lower instruments, buoys and other equipment. Overall, U.W. Manager of Marine Operations Capt. Doug Russell says the new vessel would be about 30-percent bigger than the Barnes, but would increase the area actually performing the science fourfold.

Currently, the crew in the wheelhouse cannot see what's going on behind them, making it difficult to coordinate with scientists. The new vessel's wheelhouse sits up much higher and provides much better visibility, says former Barnes skipper Ray McQuin, who is now the university's project engineer for getting a new boat designed and built.

"It will be a lot safer and a lot easier," said McQuin.

Right now, the Barnes only has bunks for six scientists and two crew members who run it. Sometimes the Barnes can be deployed for 30 days. On day trips, the vessel is limited to just 15 people. The new vessel will house far more, but the design is not final.

A new ship should be able to travel 50 miles off the coast, a big change from the Barnes' inland limitations.

"Grays Harbor, for example, we can't get down there easily to work. We can't go down to the mouth of the Columbia River easily. Now we will be able to do that with this ship," said Russell.

The U.W. is asking the legislature for $11.7 million to build the ship. The university has already invested $1.5 million in design work.