A first-of-its-kind research boat is under construction for the University of Vermont.
A 64-foot aluminum catamaran, the hybrid-electric vessel will be a floating classroom and laboratory—and model of seaworthy sustainability. With two AC electric motors, backed up by two 306-horse-power diesel engines, the vessel will be able to run on all-electric power for trips under two hours.
This will provide a low-emissions boat with few vibrations—nearly silent for students and researchers, and less intrusive for studying fish and other wildlife on the lake. The boat also has an advanced new catamaran hull form that has been optimized to minimize resistance at low speeds, accommodate battery storage, and ensure stability even in rough weather.
The new boat will also house a unique new winch system for research trawling and plankton nets. The direct-drive winches will enable UVM scientists and staff to operate more efficiently than ever before and can be operated using a single wireless joystick. This compact system was developed by engineers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and is being brought to market by InterOcean Systems of San Diego, Calif., for UVM. This will be the first vessel in the world to use this technology.
UVM researchers on Lake Champlain carry out a wide range of science missions from restoring local lake trout populations to probing global climate change. The vessel will serve as a science platform while also providing a floating classroom for UVM classes, as well as middle school, high school and public groups taking part in NOAA’s Sea Grant Watershed Alliance education program. To meet both needs, the new vessel has a large interior lab and accessible teaching space—and is being constructed as a US Coast Guard-inspected passenger vessel.
The new research vessel will replace the university’s aging research boat, Melosira, and will be housed at UVM’s Rubenstein Ecosystem Sciences Laboratory, located in the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, on the shore of Lake Champlain in downtown Burlington.
Designed by Chartwell Marine, in collaboration with hybrid propulsion specialists BAE Systems, a competitive contract has been awarded to Derecktor Shipyards and the new vessel is now under construction—and set for launch in April 2022.
“We are thrilled to be the first academic institution to adopt this technology to advance research on freshwater ecosystems,” said Nancy Mathews, the dean of UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “Both students and the community will experience state-of-the-art research and instruction, with the confidence that the university is doing its part to lead sustainable practices. The new hybrid-electric research vessel demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Rubenstein School to sustainability through its discovery, learning—and operations.”
The new UVM boat is part of leading-edge changes in boat design in an age of climate change and other environmental concerns. “The future of vessel procurement will look quite different to its current form today, as operators worldwide begin to respond to increasingly stringent requirements for low-emission craft,” said Andy Page, naval architect and managing director for Chartwell Marine.
Derecktor Shipyards is an industry leader in the development and construction of hybrid vessels, “and this will be our fourth such build,” said Justin Beard, a manager for Derecktor. “While the concept is similar to previous builds, this particular vessel includes berth space, as well as more dedicated space for research,” he said. “The finished product will be a truly unique research vessel built to foster the education of future scientists and engineers.”
“UVM’s strategic vision—Amplifying Our Impact—underscores the university’s prioritization of research and initiatives that strengthen healthy environments and healthy societies,” said Patricia Prelock, provost and senior vice president at the University of Vermont. “Our partnerships with Chartwell Marine, BAE, and Derecktor Shipyards support that vision. We look forward to the journey of the vessel’s construction and its delivery in 2022 when the ship will arrive at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Lab on Lake Champlain.”