The National Marine research Facilities (NMF) at NIOZ are the operational home of the national research fleet and the other seagoing facilities available to marine and maritime researchers working in the Netherlands. NMF encompasses the vessels and equipment, including the full operational structure needed for sea going research, from expedition planning, technical support for developing dedicated (deep)sea equipment, worldwide logistics and on-board operational support towards the final long-term (open access) storage of the data acquired.
To facilitate national marine and maritime research NMF operates 3 vessels: the ocean-going RV Pelagia (66m), the flagship of Dutch marine research, and 2 vessels that are purpose-built to work in shallow waters such as the Wadden Sea: RV Navicula (24m) and RV Stern (16m). Besides vessels, NMF operates the national marine equipment pool, an extensive suite of large, seagoing equipment that researchers can use on board for sampling, experiments and analyses. The equipment pool contains most of the commonly used equipment for bottom sampling, water column sampling and instruments for long-term deep-sea moorings, but also has a large pool of containerized laboratories, winches and additional containers for transport of equipment to foreign ports. Furthermore, NMF technical support personnel joins the cruises to assist the researchers when deploying NMF equipment. In addition, NMF workshops develop new instruments for sea research as well.
RV Pelagia is a multi-purpose, Ocean Class research vessel capable of working in all oceans except the Polar Seas, because the ship lacks ice-strengthening. The ship has 12 crew and can take up to 12 scientists and additional marine technicians for cruises of up to 6 weeks, operating 24/7 for around 320 days per year. RV Pelagia is equipped for multi-disciplinary cruises; beside the 3 fixed laboratories the ship can host up to 9 20ft containerized labs, allowing for multiple disciplines working together on the ship at any time and allowing flexibility in between cruises, when the vessel can be prepared for a different type of science mission by simply switching containers.
The main winches on RV Pelagia are the deep-sea winch and the CTD winch. The deep-sea winch has a synthetic (metal free) cable with optic fibers and copper conductors. This cable is used for a multitude of sampling activities such as bottom sampling, HD video surveys and ultra-clean CTD, for trace metal sampling, while standard CTD sampling uses the normal CTD winch and cable. With a length of 8000m for both cables, more than 99% of the ocean can be sampled.
RV Pelagia has an excellent, very experienced crew and marine technical support team that help the science party to get the best results out of the expedition. A main area of expertise is the deployment and recovery of deep sea moorings, where instrumentation to measure the physical properties of the ocean or collect particles are attached to cables anchored to the sea floor, and autonomous landers for measurements or experiments are placed on the sea floor, in water depths of up to 8500m. Moorings and landers will be left out at sea for 1 year or more and are recovered by dropping the anchor, bringing the instruments and data back up to the surface to be recovered.
The Dutch National Research Fleet is aging, at 29, 40 and 45 years for Pelagia, Navicula and Stern, respectively and the vessels are beyond their operational life span. Furthermore, the facilities on the vessels are outdated and the newest, state-of-the-art equipment cannot be operated from Pelagia because the vessel lacks capacity to accommodate sufficient personnel needed to support such equipment. In order to guarantee continued access to the seas and oceans for the marine and maritime science community in the Netherlands, a fleet renewal process, part of the national roadmap 2016-2020 is currently taking place.