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UAF Taking Possession Of Ice-Capable Ship Sikuliaq

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University of Alaska Fairbanks

If all goes according to plan, the University of Alaska Fairbanks will take possession of the Research Vessel Sikuliaq today. As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports, it’s the next step in getting the giant ice-capable ship north to Alaska. 

The $200 million, ice-capable ship is the first of its kind funded by the National Science Foundation in more than 30 years. At the opening of a special exhibit feature the ship, UAF School of Fisheries Dean Mike Castellini likened taking over the ship to getting a new car.  Something he hasn’t done in years.

“Can I ask, what was your first car?”

“It was a 1982 Mazda truck and I still drive it around in the summer.” 

“A research Vessel like the Sikuliaq might be considered a step up from a 1982 Mazda.”

“Yes, exactly!” 

There are still a few minor tests before all the documents are signed.  Equipment on board the Sikuliaq used to map the ocean floor can’t be tested until the ship is actually in the ocean.  The winches onboard the ship also need to be tested at depths well beyond that in Lake Michigan, where the ship is currently docked.

The ship will get its certification from the US Coast Guard as part of the hand-over.  The title transfers to the National Science Foundation and UAF will be become the ships’ operator. Castellini says the University will be in charge of coordinating research projects aboard the ship for the next eight years.

“So, that means scientists form University of North Carolina, or University of Alaska or anywhere will write projects to the National Science Foundation, or to what used to be the Minerals Management Service or to NOAA or the Navy or somebody and it will pass through all the science reviews and then our job as the operators is to coordinate that schedule with the rest of the fleet and get the ship there and be able to do it," Castellini said.  

Once it sets sail from the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan, it will travel through the Saint Lawrence Seaway and down the eastern seaboard.  The ship will stop in Massachusetts for tests at sea, before it sails south through the Panama Canal and north to Seward, where it is set to dock next February or March.