Supplementary evidence from the Natural
Environment Research Council (NERC) following the evidence session
on 1 May 2007
This memorandum covers three of the points raised
in the Committee's letter of 11 May 2007. A fourth point (point
2 in the letter, regarding consultation on the Oceans 2025 proposals)
was covered in our communication of 15 May 2007.
The three points are:
1. further details of the discussion between
NERC and the Royal Navy regarding bartering or other arrangements
to use their platforms (Question 37 refers)see pages 2-3.
2. NERC's policies and arrangements regarding
co-operative international ship bartering arrangements (Question
77 refers)see pages 4-6.
3. details of NERC's case for capital funding
for the new vessel to replace RRS Discovery, including details
for the case made by NERC regarding the effective use of existing
fleet facilities (Questions 86-87 refer)see pages 7-13.
1. FURTHER DETAILS
NERC AND THE
1. NERC holds discussions with the Ministry
of Defence (MOD)/Royal Navy (RN) through various fora, and some
of its Research and Collaborative Centres (in particular the British
Antarctic Survey (BAS), the British Geological Survey (BGS), the
National Oceanography Centre (NOCS) and the Scottish Association
for Marine Science (SAMS)) interact directly. The main fora are
CAROS (the Co-operative Arrangement for Research on Ocean Science),
the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (IACMST),
and the Marine Data and Information Partnership (MDIP). The RN
appears keen to provide a service to the marine science community
when possible but the RN is not as large as the US Navy and the
availability of vessels for research is inevitably limited.
2. Examples of the contribution made by
RN vessels were given by Professor Ed Hill in the oral evidence
session on 16 May (Question 235 refers), and details of some collaborative
work are provided below. Professor Hill mentioned the involvement
of the RN in deploying ARGO floats, thus contributing to maintaining
the global array of such floats, from which the data are freely
available. Other data obtained by the RN, eg meteorological data,
and ocean temperature data from expendable bathythermographs (XBTs)
are also made available.
3. BAS has a close working relationship
with HMS Endurance. There is no official agreement between
the RN and BAS, but support to BAS science is given as one of
the three tasks in the mission statement of HMS Endurance.
In Antarctica a third of HMS Endurance's time is in support
of BAS science, including the Antarctic Funding Initiative. This
role is crucial to BAS science, particularly the helicopter capability.
BAS works extremely closely with the RN to make this support effective
and the commitment that the RN has to BAS is fully supported by
the First Sea Lord. BAS has found the RN to be very receptive
to requests for supporting other BAS science, especially access
to their submarine capability. This tends to be on an ad-hoc basis.
4. BGS has been co-operating with the RN
for over 25 years in using RN sidescan sonar and bathymetric data
collected in UK waters and interpreting this RN data for incorporation
in BGS offshore maps and digital map products. BGS also acts as
a depository for RN sidescan records and sea-bed samples collected
in UK waters.
5. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26
December 2004, the RN approached Government to offer the services
of the HMS Scott, a MoD hydrographic survey vessel with
a specific purpose to acquire high-resolution multibeam bathymetry.
This was the first time that the HMS Scott had had civilians
onboard as it is specifically used for the acquisition of highly
confidential data. HMS Scott was in the Indian Ocean at
the time of the devastating tsunami and, like the HMS Chatham,
was offered for use in humanitarian aid. In collaboration, BGS,
NOCS and the UKHO met with the MoD and discussed a possible survey
plan to acquire seabed data over the earthquake rupture zone.
As a result we have a unique high-resolution bathymetric dataset
that allows insight into the processes taking place during Great
Earthquakes. The experience on both sides (RN and scientists)
was very positive.,
6. BGS gained the impression that future
joint exercises would be possible if the ship was available and
if the imperative was significant. One area that may be raised
in future discussion with the RN is access to the data HMS
Scott acquires in her service role. She works in both the
Indian and Atlantic oceans and the data sets, although confidential
in the first instance, might be made available downstream for
scientific research. In addition the ship's complement during
the Indian Ocean survey were very appreciative of having scientists
aboard who could actually interpret the data they acquired; this
again may provide a basis for future collaboration.
7. SAMS interacts with the RN partly through
the presence on SAMS' Council of Commodore Charles Stevenson CBE,
the Naval Regional Officer for Scotland and Northern Ireland,
and until recently the Director of the RN Directorate of Naval
Surveying, Oceanography and Meteorology (DNSOM). SAMS' own Director,
Professor Graham Shimmield, is currently chair of CAROS.
8. Since 1971 the RN has made submarine
platforms available to support environmental science by the academic
community in the UK, notably the ice-thickness studies by Professor
Peter Wadhams (University of Cambridge) in the Arctic. The RN
remains ready to assist with this research when possible, ie on
an "opportunity" basis. In addition to offering platforms
for research, the RN is keen to help the scientific community
promote itself through the media. For example, during the latest
Ice Exercise (ICEX 2007), the RN welcomed a camera team to HMS
Tireless for the filming of a documentary about ice-thinning.
3. NERC'S POLICIES
(QUESTION 77 REFERS)
1. NERC has marine facilities-exchange arrangements
with organisations in the USA, Germany, France, the Netherlands,
Norway and Spain. In addition, it is anticipated that a bilateral
barter exchange arrangement between the UK and Ireland will be
in place later this year.
2. From each barter partner's perspective,
the exchange arrangements have two significant advantages. Firstly,
it allows scientists access to a wider range of facilities and
equipment than would otherwise be possible. This includes 44 research
ships and other facilities such as remotely operated vehicles
(ROV), towed arrays and shipboard surveying systems. Such facilities
are required to carry out "cutting edge" research, but
are frequently so expensive that it makes little sense for all
countries to purchase their own facilities.
3. Secondly, it reduces wasted time, and
therefore wasted cost, spent on long passage legs between areas
of scientific interest, and allows scientists access to a wider
range of geographical areas in a given year. In these ways the
exchange arrangements promote more efficient and cost-effective
use of each country's national resources.
4. To facilitate these arrangements, barter
partners have now synchronised their annual cruise planning cycles
and meetings are held in the spring and autumn of each year to
allow for partners to consider programming and bartering possibilities.
5. Although the underlying principal is
that no money changes hands, the arrangement does not provide
"free" ship time. For every cruise on a foreign ship,
the beneficiary country must mount a full cruise on one of its
own ships in return, and to an equivalent value. The operating
costs still fall to the ship owners, and each country has an appropriate
scheme of banking to support the process. An equivalence points
system has been agreed for the value of each of the ships, to
ensure like-for-like value and barter points are allocated per
ship day used.
NERC-NSF bilateral arrangements
6. NERC has had a bilateral barter arrangement
with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA since the
mid-1980s. NERC has in recent years had regular exchanges with
the NSF and this has allowed UK scientists to take advantage of
the positioning of US ships in the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico;
to use the state-of-the-art US geophysics ship and its facilities;
and to take part in joint cruises (see paragraph 10ii for more
NERC's trilateral arrangement
7. NERC has had a trilateral barter arrangement
with organisations in Germany and France since the mid-1990s.
These arrangements were then extended to include organisations
from the Netherlands (in 2002) and Norway and Spain (in 2006).
All trilateral arrangement organisations are now members of the
Ocean Facilities Exchange Group (OFEG), which was formed in 2002
to facilitate the exchange of European ocean-going facilities.
8. NERC has played a lead role in developing
OFEG through its Chairmanship/Secretarial roles. Recent OFEG highlights
a step change in barter activity
as trust has built up amongst the members of OFEGwith activity
increasing from less than ca.50-days a year before 2003 to exchanges
of up to 250-days a year;
exchanges of marine equipment and
the development of an OFEG deep-platforms
facility (eg ROVs, deep-ocean towed platforms) and an OFEG marine
geophysics facilitywhich will provide for better collaboration,
and possibly integration, of these expensive facilities;
workshop meetings that are planned
for OFEG technicians to facilitate the improvement of information
exchange, collaboration, and training activities.
NERC's barter activity
9. Over the past five-years there has been
a step change in NERC's barter exchange activity and this has
been made possible by the high levels of trust that NERC has built
up with its barter partners. Before 2003, NERC was typically involved
in 1-2 exchanges per year (typically amounting to less than 30-days
exchanged per year) but from 2003 NERC has had between 12 and
15 exchanges per year with between 160 and 220 days exchanged.
10. NERC has in recent years proactively
used barter arrangements to maximise the science that it can deliver
with its marine facilities by, for example, minimising the number
of science days that are lost in the cruise programme to extended
passage legs between science areas. In addition, the barter arrangements
have allowed NERC to realise a number of other significant benefits,
i) Opportunistic interventions
The barter arrangements allow NERC to take advantage
of the geographic position of barter partner ships to, for example,
recover data from drifting moorings and then re-deploy the mooring
quickly to maintain long-term time series. Such opportunistic
interventions have proved invaluable to ensure that monitoring
systems, such as the UK-US funded RAPID mooring arraythat
monitors the thermohaline circulation across the North Atlantic
at 26³Ncontinues to collect a largely complete time-series.
In 2004, for example, opportunistic interventions allowed for
the timely recovery of drifting RAPID moorings on both the eastern
and western boundaries of the North Atlantic using US and German
barter ships, respectively. Such timely interventions would not
have been possible using NERC ships.
ii) Joint cruises
In recent years NERC's barter partners have
been willing to consider programming options that deliver a number
of national science programmes on joint cruises. One recent example
of this used a NERC ship to deliver a joint UK-Dutch-German cruise
to recover and turn around the long-term moorings in the high
latitude North Atlantic. Programming this cruise in this way ensured
that all three nations did not need to send their own ships into
this geographically remote region at the same time and it allowed
for there to be interaction/collaboration between the members
of the science and technical support teams.
iii) Large-scale exchanges
The increased collaboration that NERC has had
with its partners has enabled it to programme the largest ever
exchange by any nationand it is anticipated that similar
large exchanges will now be possible in the future. As part of
this exchange, UK scientists will gain access to 130 days on the
German research ship Sonne in 2008 and 2009 to do a geophysics
experiment off Sumatra to improve our understanding of the earthquake
that caused the tsunami in December 2004. Without the confidence
that partners now have in the barter arrangements, it might not
have been possible to deliver this science programme, as it is
in such a geographically remote region that the use of a NERC
ship would have introduced large passage legs into the NERC cruise
programme at a time when there is high science demand for the
4. DETAILS OF
REPLACE RRS DISCOVERY,
BY NERC REGARDING
Annex A formed the basis of discussions held
between the Research Councils and with OSI regarding obtaining
funding for a replacement for the RRS Discovery from the Large
Facilities Capital Fund.