These safety standards provide guidelines for the operation of oceanographic research vessels owned, operated or chartered by Members of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), to assure that research at sea is conducted to the highest practicable standards of safety and prudence. Each Member Institution is encouraged to comply with them as applicable to all ships and boats under their control. The operators of other research vessels are invited to make use of them as well.
These standards are based in major part on applicable laws and regulations. In addition and where appropriate, they supplement, extend, and assist in the interpretation of the legal requirements. Nothing herein is intended to conflict with the legal standards, but rather to encourage and assist the operator to not only meet, but also go beyond the legal minimums, as may be desirable and practicable. It is recognized that the wide variety of vessel types and sizes, and their diverse operational usage, will necessarily lead to many discretionary interpretations. In such cases, a common-sense application of the principles of good seamanship and sound marine engineering practice will be more effective than attempting to cover all conceivable cases. The absence of a law, regulation or standard covering any particular matter should not be regarded as necessarily lessening the importance of it.
Assistance to operating institutions by providing reference materials, and interpreting the laws, regulations and standards is available through the UNOLS Research Vessel Operators’ Committee (RVOC) and the UNOLS Research Vessel Technical Enhancement Committee (RVTEC).
Operators are reminded that in addition to the legal responsibilities and liabilities associated with Federal laws and regulations, and maritime law, safe operation is one of the factors used by Federal science sponsors in evaluating the merit of a ship as a research platform.
These standards do not apply to research submersibles, which are covered by a different, and detailed, set of regulations, however a chapter on handling research submersibles from UNOLS vessels is covered in these standards.
Recognizing that research vessels and ocean research in general should be in the forefront of contributing to maritime safety, research vessels should take every opportunity to participate in innovative research, procedures, and equipment operation evaluations which would enhance the practice of safety at sea.
Institutions are strongly encouraged to make available “Cruise Handbooks” or “User Manuals" incorporating important parts of these standards, plus additional information on their particular ships and any pertinent institutional regulations or procedures. These have been found to be extremely useful both to the scientists and the ship’s crew.
This document deals solely with safety standards for craft engaged in oceanographic or limnological research, or related instruction. To avoid constant repetition of the adjective “research,” it is to be understood to apply throughout to the terms “ship,” “vessel,” “boat,” “motorboat,” etc., unless some other sense is specified.