Taipei, Sept. 2 (CNA) A new fleet of marine research vessels is expected to be formally established in the first half of 2020, helping Taiwan expand its capability in marine and oceanographic research and boost the country's efforts to develop its own shipbuilding industry, experts familiar with the project have said.
The fleet will include the existing 2,000-ton vessel "Legend," two new 500-ton research vessels and another 1,000-ton vessel.
The two 500-ton vessels, dubbed new R/V Ocean Researcher 2 (OR2) and new R/V OR3, are expected to be delivered in September and October this year and commissioned into service in the first quarter of next year, while the 1,000-ton vessel dubbed new R/V OR1 is expected to be delivered in early 2020, coming into service in the second quarter of next year.
Given the highly abundant coastal ecosystems and diverse geographic environments off Taiwan, the new fleet of marine survey ships will facilitate ocean current studies and national defense, National Taiwan University Institute of Oceanography director Jan Sen (詹森) said.
Meanwhile, the fleet's establishment also marks a milestone for an ongoing indigenous shipbuilding program, Jan said, adding that the design and construction of the new vessels was undertaken by CSBC Corp., Taiwan.
The experience of building new ships will allow the company to take orders from abroad for the design and building of new marine research vessels and further boost the local shipbuilding industry, Jan said.
Taiwan's three ocean research vessels R/V OR1, R/V OR2, R/V OR3 are outdated and lack advanced observation equipment, while the RV OR5 sank off Penghu in 2014.
Therefore, in January 2018 the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) launched a NT$1.6 billion (US$52 million) plan and contracted CSBC to build three new ocean research ships -- the new R/V OR1, new R/V OR2 and new R/V OR3 -- which will be used to carry out academic projects and national ocean research programs.
After the ministry takes delivery, the three new vessels will be handed over to National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Ocean University, and National Sun Yat-sen University.
In addition, the existing 2,000-ton vessel "Legend" is operated by the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs).
A committee for the new fleet comprising members from MOST, the Ocean Affairs Council and the ships' management units will be established to coordinate the dispatch of the ships, MOST Deputy Minister Shieh Dar-bin (謝達斌) said.
"Legend" is mainly used to carry out national research projects, while the other new ships will conduct different missions depending on the needs of their respective schools.
"Legend" features a deep-sea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) which is capable of operating at depths of 3,000 meters, NARLabs' Taiwan Oceanic Research Institute director Wang Chao-chang (王兆璋) said, adding that it can be used for deep sea exploration and sampling.
It is also equipped with an ocean-bottom seismic observation system to conduct earthquake research, Wang added.