Scientific Support Equipment is defined as:
Ship-Owned equipment, such as winches, handling systems, portable vans, sampling instruments, and laboratory equipment that is specifically designed to support scientific operations. It is essentially the equipment suite that separates research vessels from other classes of vessels.
Portable equipment that is owned or obtained by the science party or the ship operator that is brought aboard for a specific mission.
Scientific support equipment carried on board research vessels ranges from the familiar equipment standard on most cruises (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) profilers with rosettes or box cores) to one-of-a-kind developmental hardware which is largely unknown to all hands, perhaps even to the scientists who brought it. This raises two safety concerns: first, extreme familiarity may lead to carelessness with gear, which could be inherently dangerous. Second, novel equipment with unknown potential hazards can lead to unpleasant surprises. In either case, both crew and scientific party should exercise prudence and caution when deploying, recovering, or staging scientific equipment.
Although the actual operation of scientific equipment may be delegated to the Chief Scientist or others in the science party, ultimate responsibility for safety lies with the Master of the vessel, and it is assumed that the Master has full knowledge of and has given consent to every operation on board.
With very few exceptions, federal laws and regulations do not cover scientific equipment, other than the general requirements embodied in International Safety Management (ISM) code, which requires pro-active safety management of all operations undertaken on board the vessel.
In the majority of cases, the CFRs and other rules delegate the responsibility for safety procedures to the operator, thus placing a heavy burden on those involved. Therefore, it is important that all hands approach research operations with particular care and use the principles of good seamanship, sound marine engineering practices, and common sense.
Though autonomous vehicles and instruments are rapidly becoming more commonplace, most research equipment is still handled over the side on wires and cables. All the handling gear must be installed to meet the manufacturer’s specifications and be in compliance with Subchapter U requirements for weight handling gear (46 CFR 189.35). The scientific party is responsible to ensure that their equipment also meets these requirements.
Weight Handling Gear: Inspected research vessels shall comply with 46 CFR 189.35. Where applicable, stress and general design calculations should be performed. 46 CFR 189.35-9 requires that, “The safety factor for all metal structural parts shall be a minimum of 1.5; i.e. the yield strength of the material shall be at least 1.5 times the calculated stresses resulting from application of a load equal to the nominal breaking strength of the strongest section or wire rope to be used. Suitable assumptions for the actual loading conditions shall be used in the design of wet gear. The lead of the wire rope from the head sheave or winch drum shall be considered to vary from the vertical and in azimuth in a manner to represent the most adverse loading condition.” These concerns also apply to the means by which equipment is secured to the vessel’s deck.
Installation and periodic tests (see 46 CFR 189.35-5): Tests should normally consist of exercising the equipment as a unit with a proof load 25 percent in excess of the equipment’s normal working load (125%); however, manufacturer’s design limitations should not be exceeded. Examination and testing procedures for weight handling equipment used to deploy scientific equipment over-the-side must be followed, documented and recorded.
The owner or operator shall conduct a safety assessment of weight handling gear. Section 189.35-13 details the Master’s responsibilities (listed below) and these may be used as a guide for the operator’s safety assessment.
The gear is properly installed and secure.
Suitable safety guards are installed in way of rotating machinery, hazardous cable runs and at other appropriate locations.
Operating limitations are posted in an appropriate manner.
Only qualified operators are permitted to operate the weight handling gear. The master shall designate the operators.
A minimum number of persons, as required to perform the task at hand, are allowed in the immediate area.
The installation does not violate the approved trim and stability information.
A suitable permanent record is maintained on the equipment as appropriate showing such items as inspections, tests, important repairs and casualties experienced. This record shall be made available to the Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection (OCMI), upon request.
Prior to a vessel’s departure, an entry shall also be made in the official logbook that the ship’s weight handling gear is in compliance with the applicable requirements in this subchapter.
Vans: 46 CFR 188.10-67 provides the definition of a van as science equipment. 46 CFR 195.11 contains the Coast Guard regulations concerning the use of certain vans aboard inspected vessels. These regulations consider only three categories; accommodation vans, power/machinery vans, and chemical storage vans, which are subject to both Coast Guard regulatory plan approval and inspections at a two-year interval. Laboratory vans are NOT considered accommodations vans and are not subject to Coast Guard inspection regulations. More detailed information concerning containers and securing of vans may be found in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 1496 and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Guide for Certification of Container Securing Systems and Certification of Cargo Containers. These regulations are helpful for dimensional details and shipping as containerized cargo. For conversion to portable scientific vans, or for new construction of vans, the UNOLS Portable Scientific Van Manual, which is available in the Publications section of the UNOLS website, should be consulted. Table One of the Van Manual contains a summary of van types and requirements.
Accommodation vans, power/machinery vans, and chemical storage vans designed for use aboard uninspected vessels before the implementation of the UNOLS Scientific Van Standards were not subject to Coast Guard inspection. Therefore, such a van cannot be transferred to an inspected vessel unless the Coast Guard inspects it first.
Operators of uninspected vessels must be aware that a van placed aboard a vessel does count as measurable volume for admeasurement purposes. It is possible for a van to increase tonnage to 300 or more tons, potentially placing the vessel into an inspected status.
Within 18 months of adopting this revision of the RVSS, all vessels shall comply with Appendix A - UNOLS Rope and Cable Safe Working Load Standards.
When Appendix B is adopted, all ship-owned handling systems (winches, davits, frames, etc.) must meet the requirements given in Appendix B - UNOLS Handling System Design Standards.
When Appendix B is adopted, all science-owned handling equipment (winches, davits, frames, etc.) must meet the requirements for portable ship’s equipment given in Appendix B - UNOLS Handling System Design Standards.
All ship-owned vans built after January 1, 2002 must meet the requirements given in the UNOLS Portable Scientific Van Manual.
All science-owned vans delivered after January 1, 2010 must meet the requirements given in the UNOLS Portable Scientific Van Manual.
All Vans, including vans delivered prior to January 1, 2010, shall be examined and approved for use based on Appendix C – Safety Inspection Checklist for Shipboard Vans.
All science support equipment installations shall be consistent with the approved stability data for the vessel for the entire range of weights and heights through which these are deployed.
Operators of uninspected vessels, as a matter of best-accepted practices, should follow the requirements of section 8.3.1.
For handling systems, operating limitations should be clearly posted, and operators of winches, cranes, and the like must be qualified in their use or properly certified depending on the system (See Appendix B when it is adopted). Labels giving test information should be placed on the equipment. Since overstresses may degrade the long-term safety factor, records must be maintained of tests, excessive loading, maintenance, alterations, and other factors. It should be noted that as science techniques and equipment evolve, the value of the equipment being lowered increases, and the potential consequential losses arising from equipment failures may extend to delays of the scientific program, immediate hazards to operating personnel, and potential financial liability.
Ship Operators should provide appropriate safety equipment such as tag lines, lifelines, hard hats and communications systems to be used as deemed necessary by the Master for safe deck operations.
The Chief Scientist is responsible for the general operation and safety of the scientific laboratories and storage areas. Periodic inspections of the vessel’s laboratory spaces should be made by a scientist and one of the ship’s officers to verify safe stowage, securing of equipment, and cleanliness. Particular attention must be paid to the stowage and use of chemicals, flammables, and other hazardous materials; safety labeling; posted standard safety precautions, and common-sense safe operating procedures [See Chapter 8]. Fire extinguishers, ventilation, eyewash facilities, spill kits, and other laboratory safety equipment should be available and marked. Ship’s motion is by far the most common cause of damage and personal injury aboard ship, and experienced ship’s crew should help the science party to secure laboratory and scientific equipment. Cooperation between the ship’s crew and the scientific party is most important since many scientists are not experienced mariners and thus are unfamiliar with even the common problems associated with a moving vessel. It should be remembered that while in practice the Chief Scientist is primarily responsible for safety of the science operations, the ultimate legal responsibility (and authority) lies with the Master of the vessel. (46 CFR 194.15-3)
The carrying of portable science equipment including vans, tanks, special winches, crates of equipment, large sampling gear, and other instrumentation must be carefully checked for conformity with approved stability and load line conditions. It is particularly important that accurate weights be provided for equipment being brought on board. Since such installations are temporary, their design and the selection of materials, especially for weather surfaces and the attachments and hold-downs, should be carefully thought through in light of probable weather conditions and ship’s motion likely to be encountered during the voyage. The use of standard-sized hold-down holes at 2-foot spacing on the deck is commonplace throughout the research fleet. With these readily available, all scientific equipment to be embarked should be designed to fit the bolt pattern, and there is no excuse for portable structures coming adrift. While each installation will, of course, be somewhat different, as a basic guide, the van itself and accessory components should be designed and constructed to good marine commercial standards. Electrical and other connections to the permanent ship systems should be to marine standards. Adequate ventilation for the intended use must be provided. Particular attention should be given to van electrical systems since building electrical systems have “grounded neutrals” while ship systems are generally ungrounded. Proper design of van electrical systems, including the provisions to isolate van electrical circuits, is particularly important since it can avoid problems both as shock source and electrolysis. Machinery brought on board should be in good repair and operating condition, because hydraulic leaks and electrical problems pose a safety risk to scientists and crew alike. Acceptable “marine standards” are those standards published by UL for marine service, found in IEEE-45 or Coast Guard regulations.
46 CFR 195.09 Scientific Equipment: All scientific equipment shall be designed to good commercial standards and it is the responsibility of the owner to assure their equipment is free of personnel hazards.
Autonomous equipment: Autonomous science support equipment such as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), gliders, drifters, and Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAVs) are becoming more and more common place. Generally speaking, deployment and recovery may not be any more complicated than any other piece of science instrumentation. These systems do, however, present a different legal framework once they are deployed and free from the vessel. The question of who is responsible for incidents caused by an AUV has been raised, but probably won’t be settled until some event occurs. Until then, it should be considered like any other piece of science equipment deployed from the vessel. The Master and the Chief Scientist should consult on the details of the particular operation to minimize risk to the instrument itself and outside parties.