Submission from the Gardline Group
COST SAVING FOR GOVERNMENT RESEARCH VESSEL
Marine science is a costly exercise, however
utilisation of the private sector will significantly improve value
for money without compromising either quality or quantity.
We would appreciate your consideration of the
approach embodied within this email that would lead to significant
reductions in operational costs for the vessels operated by the
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the British Antarctic
Survey (BAS), CEFAS and others.
As an owner and operator of 10 large ocean going
survey vessels we have a substantial capability in vessel management,
marine data collection, interpretation and ocean science in general,
providing such services to both public and private sector clients.
It is our view that the private sector could
operate government research vessels for circa 20% less
than current practice. The reason for this bold assertion is that
we have studied the available cost structure from publicly available
sources and we know what it costs to run our own vessels, five
of which were previously UK government owned.
Our experience and understanding ranges from
the provision of vessels under charter to NERC in the early 70's
eg RV Researcher, to the purchase of the "Charles Darwin"
in 2006now renamed RV Ocean Researcher and operated by
2. COST SAVING
One of the main costs associated with marine
science is that of vessel operation. Savings can be gained from
attention to the following:
(a) Increase in available days at sea. Government
survey ships are typically on task for 200 days, yet similar commercial
vessels operate for 280-300 paid days. This increase in activity
could mean reducing the fleet or utilising the vessels for other
work so that the day rate, and therefore costs, when on task are
(b) Generous sea going allowances are paid
to civil service scientists and technicians, and although some
form of "time at sea payment" is appropriate in the
case of CEFAS for example an additional £100/day or £60/day
exchange for an extra day of leave applies, ie a 10 day trip will
generate an extra £1,000 or 10 days leave plus £400.
(c) Vessel crewing"Charles Darwin"
and "Discovery" have a crew of 22, where commercial
vessels performing the same task would have at least five crew
lessand with duplicated crews to provide relief this equates
to a saving of 10 crew per ship.
(d) The vessels can be used for paid commercial
or government survey operations to generate income in between
(e) If incorporated as part of a commercial
fleet then (i) onshore support can be provided appropriately and
365 days a year, and (ii) vessel manning can be optimised, particularly
to fill gaps between projects, rather than what we can deduce
as being two crews allocated per ship, busy or not.
3.1 This email is an initial introduction
and can be further developed with operational details as required,
however the opportunity for say 30 minutes to discuss our suggestion
with the committee at a date to suit would we believe be a valuable
3.2 The commercial sector operates within
a competitive environment to the highest safety standards providing
service globally and continuously, without the constraints of
pre-arranged external schedules, in what can truly be described
as a demanding environment. This capability if applied to the
operation of government research vessels will unquestionably provide
3.3 The commercial sector including Gardline
has developed in depth, technology and experience over recent
decades as a result of increased spending for hydrocarbon exploration,
intercontinental telephone cables, oil and gas pipelines; plus
governments from many countries have developed their Exclusive
Economic Zones with regional hydrographic surveys, environmental
monitoring, sand and gravel extraction, offshore wind farms, fisheries
science and enforcement etc.
3.4 A list of Gardline vessels and their
current operations (29 December 2006) is detailed below to illustrate
operations undertaken. Of marginal relevance is the fact that
the Gardline Group is a privately owned British company, of more
importance is that research vessel experience from the poles to
the tropics has developed over the past 35 years.
|Sea Explorer||North Sea
|Sea Profiler||Great Yarmouth, UK
||Hydrographic survey (exploration)|
|Ocean Seeker||North Sea|
|Sea Surveyor||North Sea|
|Ocean Researcher||North Sea|
|Pipeline route survey|
|L'espoir||On passage to|
|Mobilisation for hydrographic survey|
|Triton||On passage to Australia
||Mobilisation for Australian Government charter
4. HIGH COST
We note that the cost of the newly acquired (Norwegian built)
RV James Cook is £36 million, which is greater in value than
the entire 10 ship fleet of Gardline vessels which undertake virtually
the same work with greater productivity. This vessel is an expensive
resource and should, in our view, be used as efficiently as possible.
5. REQUEST FOR
We request that consideration is given to putting UK Government
research vessel operation and data collection out to commercial
tender as demonstrable capacity exists and undoubted cost savings
6. INVITATION TO
Although we would not expect an immediate response we would
be pleased to take members of the Committee to sea for a day,
or if inappropriate a visit to Great Yarmouth to view the facilities,
support services available and vessels if alongside.