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Operator Selection for a Regional Class Research Vessel

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived.

Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.


The Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) Integrative Programs Section (IPS) is soliciting proposals from eligible organizations to serve as the Operating Institution (OI) for the third ship in the Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV #3).  Planning for construction of new RCRVs for the U.S. Academic Research Fleet (ARF) has been ongoing at the National Science Foundation for more than a decade.  In early 2012 a Solicitation (NSF-12-558) was issued for the design and construction of up to three RCRVs.  The solicitation provided that the Awardee would serve as Lead Institution (LI) for the Design and Construction of all vessels in the Class with the option to serve as Operator of the Lead Ship.  The solicitation further indicated that selection of OIs for any additional vessels would be conducted by means of a separate competition that would be completed prior to delivery of the first RCRV. 

In early 2013, a resulting Cooperative Agreement was awarded to Oregon State University (OSU). As the LI, OSU is responsible for managing each phase of the design, construction and trials of each vessel in the Class.  OSU will also serve as Operator of the Lead Ship. The Design Phase was completed and NSF’s 2017 budget included a provision that supported construction of three (3) ships.  A construction contract for up to three Regional Class Research Vessels was awarded to Gulf Island Shipyards, LLC. 

In 2018, the solicitation “Operator Selection for Two Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV 2 and RCRV 3)” NSF 18-534 was released. However, the competition resulted in the selection of an operator for RCRV 2 only, the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium, led by the University of Rhode Island. 

This solicitation seeks to select a qualified Operating Institution for the third vessel in the Class (RCRV#3). The institution shall either be a current University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) Vessel Operator or be capable of becoming one prior to taking over responsibility for full vessel operations. The prospective Awardee will be required to perform the following, separately-funded activities:  

  • Provide Operating Institution representation on-site at the shipyard during the Design Verification and Transfer (DVT) Phase for RCRV #3 (see estimated dates below).
  • Provide one representative to a Transition Core Team formed at the start of the Transition to Operations Phase of RCRV #1 (estimated to be July 2020).
  • Provide appropriate levels of personnel resources in support of the two-year Transition to Operations Phase for RCRV #3, which starts one year prior to vessel delivery and ends one year following vessel delivery.

The staggered schedule for the RCRV program is based on approximately one-year Construction Stage Start intervals between RCRVs #1, #2 and #3.  Start of Transition to Operations for RCRV#3 is staggered by about six months from RCRV #2 and one year from RCRV #1 due to the shorter Construction Stages between vessels. 

The requirement to provide one Full Year of Operations under the Operations Stage after completing the Construction Stage will be funded directly under this solicitation.

Accordingly, a tentative schedule of associated milestones requires Awardee participation as follows:

RCRV #3 Construction Stage (Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Account (MREFC) Funded) Includes Construction Phase and Transition to Operations Phase

Construction Phase

  • Start of Design Verification and Transfer (DVT)     June 2019 (or soon after Award)

Transition to Operations Phase

  • Start of Transition to Operations for RCRV #1       July 2020
  • Start of Transition to Operations for RCRV #3       July 2021
  • Vessel Delivery                                                      July 2022
  • End of Transition to Operations                            July 2023

RCRV #3 Operations Stage (Research and Related Account (R&RA) Funded)

  • Start of First Full Year of Operations                    July 2023
  • First Full Year of Operations Complete                 July 2024

The award resulting from this solicitation will encompass Operating Institution activities over an estimated 5-year period for RCRV #3.  Activities for the Construction Stage will be MREFC-funded by way of a required contract instrument executed between the OI with the RCRV Lead Institution (OSU). 

The first Full Year of Operations following the End of Transition to Operations for RCRV #3 will be R&RA funded through the Cooperative Agreement resulting from this solicitation.  Thereafter, separate Cooperative Agreements will be negotiated between NSF Ship Operations and the successful Awardee for subsequent operational periods.

Program contacts

Rose Dufour
rdufour@nsf.gov (703) 292-8811 GEO/OCE
Brian Midson
bmidson@nsf.gov (703) 292-8145 GEO/OCE

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