Case studies

Leading the way in marine research


Newcastle University has underlined its commitment to marine research after commissioning an £800,000 state-of-the-art catamaran that will further our scientific understanding of the North Sea.

The new boat will play a major role in the university’s drive to focus on sustainability, providing vital data about our coastal waters and informing future decisions about marine conservation zones as well as acting as an advanced platform for marine technology research needs.

Designed by staff and students in the School of Marine Science and Technology, the new research vessel will replace the Bernicia which was finally taken out of commission last year after more than four decades of biological sampling.

Like its predecessor – which was built in Ryton – the  new research vessel is being built locally in Blyth by master boat-builders Alnmaritec who beat off competition from across the world to scoop the contract.

Lead designer Professor Mehmet Atlar, from the School of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, explained: “The design of the catamaran is based on an environmental philosophy that combines flexibility with efficiency”.

“As well as a deep-vee hull to provide excellent performance, sea-keeping and manoeuvrability, we have incorporated an anti-slamming bow profile which is combined with an efficient bulbous bow.  This unique bow features will provide the vessel more contact with the water in waves and hence reduce slamming risk as well as improving fuel efficiency.”

Due to be launched early next year, the catamaran will be used for a range of biological and other scientific research including water and plankton sampling, sea floor coring, rock dredging and sea floor photography.

Another important mission of the vessel will be to provide a service for marine technology researchers and local industries with the aid of advanced monitoring systems on-board.

Chris Millman, Managing Director Alnmaritec Ltd., said his team were ready to rise to the challenge of building such an innovative vessel.

“We have been building aluminium boats for more than 20 years and have built up a global reputation as a leader in the industry,” he said.

“Over that time we have worked closely with Newcastle University and we are delighted to be working with them on such an exciting, groundbreaking project.

“I think what it shows is that despite all the doom and gloom of the big shipyards, the region still has the specialist expertise and the knowledge to keep us at the forefront of the industry.”

Newcastle University is the key driver of scientific research in the region and has identified sustainability as a priority with the launch of the new Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.  This supports Newcastle’s role as a Science City and builds on existing strengths in both research and industry.

Professor Richard Birmingham added: “The new research vessel will be a significant addition to the state of the art marine research facilities that we have in the School.

“It is fantastic that this vessel which will be operating in the waters of the North East coast will also be built by a local company reinforcing the strong links we have with the regional marine community.”