Duckworth Steel Boats, Tarpon Springs, Fla., was awarded a contract early this month to build a new 78'x26' research vessel for the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO), St. Petersburg, Fla.

A keel laying ceremony is scheduled for June and construction is estimated to take between 12 and 24 months. The 78' research vessel, designed and engineered by Boksa Marine Design, Lithia, Fla., will replace FIO’s current research vessel, the 71' Bellows.

Built in 1968, FIO has operated the Bellows since 1979 as a floating laboratory for scientists and students studying the waterways of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas.

The new 78' steel vessel will be longer and wider than the Bellows. The design features more working space, including separated wet and dry labs, a larger work deck, separate galley, and more comfortable arrangements for berthing.

The new vessel will have a depth of 10'4", a working draft of 6' and a maximum draft of 6'6". A Caterpillar C18 engine producing 600 hp at 1,800 rpm will provide power. The C18 will turn a 41"-dia. propeller through a ZF 665A marine gear with a 2.517:1 ratio. The package will produce a 10-knot cruising speed and 12-knot maximum speed. For service power, there will be a pair of 55-kW Kohler gensets. The vessel will have a crew of two and room for 10 scientists.

Anticipated missions for the new vessel will include a variety of over-the-side operations including water sampling, bioacoustics, sediment coring, and fisheries research.

The new design will address the limitations of a vessel that was built more than 40 years ago and has become increasingly more expensive to maintain. Similarly, the design will ensure the vessel meets the known and anticipated requirements of varied research missions in the years to come.

“We’re excited to be a part of this new project. The vessel has a rich history of scientific education and discovery and we hope the new boat will continue the institute’s ongoing mission,” said Nick Boksa, president of Boksa Marine Design.

During construction, Boksa Marine will provide detailed engineering and construction oversight. In 2014, BMD also provided systems and mechanical engineering services for FIO’s other research vessel, the 115' Weatherbird II.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.