Cruise Planning Information

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Thorough cruise planning is essential to a cruise's success.  This starts in the proposal writing phase and carries through to after the cruise is complete.  Whether this is your first time or your 100th time, planning for a cruise takes a lot of time, good communication and attention to details.  

Below are links to information outlining the key aspects of pre-cruise planning including basic timelines, available community resources, permits, packing and shipping, and more. This is general information and should be used in conjunction with vessel operator's policies and procedures.  Any vessel-specific questions should go directly to the operator's cruise planning personnel.   The UNOLS office and the vessel operators are here to answer any questions you may have, even during the proposal writing phase. We have prepared a worksheet to help you keep track of your cruise planning process. 

General Cruise Planning Timeline

Below is a general timeline containing items to keep in mind while planning your research cruise. Please note this is for reference only.  Each vessel has their own specifics.  Please see each vessel's Cruise Planning Website and contact the vessel operator with any questions.

When you are writing your research funding proposal (ideally 18-24 months before cruise):
  • Submit a UNOLS Ship-time and Marine Equipment (SME) form (attach a copy of your submitted request to your funding application, you must create an Marine Facilities Planning website account to complete a SME)
  • Request travel funds to attend a pre-cruise meeting
  • Request funds for marine technical services that are not included in the standard vessel day rate.  Each ship has marine technical support built into their ship budget.  This varies by ship, but generally the Marine Techs (MTs) are in charge of supporting all of the shipboard scientific instrumentation and equipment.  The MT role extends to deck support on some ships.  Additional support (beyond what is included in a vessel's Basic Services) could include technical support to analyze water samples, an additional tech to perform 24hr operations, or an additional tech to operate a specific piece of equipment.  If there is question about whether the technical support you require will fall within the vessel's basic services, contact the operator and/or your science Program Manager to discuss. 
  • If working in/out of a foreign port and/or applying for a foreign Marine Science Research Clearance,
    • read the White Paper and Appendix 1 on working in foreign ports and requesting foreign research clearances.
    • request funds for foreign collaborators
    • request funds for foreign observers
    • request sufficient shipping funds
  • Are you requesting to use HOV Alvin, ROV Jason, or  AUV Sentry? Contact the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF)
  • Expecting to need any equipment or services from the Other UNOLS Facilities?   Contact the facility operator to understand how and when to request the information and whether it should be budgeted in your proposal.
  • Request sufficient funds for additional bandwidth if required. 
After you are funded (7-12 months before your cruise):
Before your pre-cruise meeting (2-6 months before your cruise – depending on cruise complexity):
  • Complete the vessel specific pre-cruise questionnaire.
  • Familiarize yourself and your scientific party with institutional shipboard policies and procedures.
  • Contact the institution's technical support group for
    • Loading plan for deck & interior spaces
    • Special fabrication or engineering needs
    • Winch & wire needs
    • Customs requirements for scientific equipment
  • Review procedures to shipping gear to the vessel.
  • Review US export control restrictions:
  • Using isotopes? 
  • Bringing Lithium Batteries onboard? 
  • Planning to use scientific diving in your program? 
    • Review institutional scientific diving policies and procedures.
  • Planning to use your science provided portable winch and oceanographic wire?
  • Develop a data management plan
  • Follow-up with Marine Science Research Clearances (as required)
One month prior to sailing:
  • Follow-up on any loose ends.
  • Follow-up with Marine Science Research Clearances (as required)
  • Work with the vessel operator to submit the information for Notices to Mariners if deploying buoys, moorings or any other sort of fixed gear.
Two weeks prior to sailing:
  • Complete any Cruise Participant information
  • Finalize Science Cargo Manifest
  • Finalize Berthing Plan
  • Complete Hazmat Forms as required
  • Follow-up with Marine Science Research Clearances (as required)
Immediately following your cruise:
  • Complete a UNOLS Post Cruise Assessment Form
  • Complete a Marine Science Research Clearance preliminary cruise report (as indicated by your Diplomatic Note)
  • Complete a NDSF Vehicle Debrief (if applicable)
Other Important Cruise Planning Information

*image courtesy of Rebecca Fowler