Norway is set to build a new $80m advanced research vessel, as part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations's (FAO) project to help developing countries improve their fisheries management.
The new 70m-long vessel named Dr Fridtjof Nansen will replace an existing aging craft of the same name, and will be equipped with seven laboratories to collect data on marine ecosystems, climate change and pollution.
EAF-Nansen project coordinator Kwame Koranteng said: "The presence of the r/v Dr Fridtjof Nansen in the waters of developing countries has resulted in greater understanding of the need to manage marine resources sustainably and also provides a common language with which people are able to communicate at a regional and often a global level."
Features of the new vessel include an auditorium, the latest sonar equipment to map fish distribution and a remotely operated underwater vehicle to take pictures of life on the ocean floor.
Dr Fridtjof Nansen will be more spacious than its predecessor, with berths for 45 scientists, technicians and crew. It is expected to be launched in 2016.
Additional equipment includes a dynamic positioning system to safely work around sensitive infrastructure, such as oil rigs, while a look-out compartment on the main mast will be fitted for surveys of seabirds and marine mammals.
The new vessel is being built as part of the EAF-Nansen project, which is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and run by the FAO, with the scientific support of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR).
The project currently works with 32 coastal African countries to help them obtain detailed information on their marine resources to develop fisheries management plans, maintain ecosystem health and productivity.
In the near future, the project may focus on the impacts of climate change and pollution, including environmental monitoring on offshore oil and gas mining activities.
Image: The former Dr Fridtjof Nansen research vessel has been navigating the coast of Africa since 1993. Photo: courtesy of the FAO.