Damen Shipyards Group has completed the extensive rebuild of research vessel OceanXplorer. The vessel now has laboratories and studios on board and has been equipped with submersibles, sonar arrays, manned submarines and an ROV and AUV to explore and map the depths of the oceans.

The project carried out at at Damen Shiprepair Rotterdam required the vessel – a former offshore survey ship – to be rebuilt, in essence from the main deck upwards by stripping the existing accommodation and adding a completely new and much larger accommodation to house the new laboratories, workshops and submarine hangar. A fully integrated heli hangar was added to the superstructure as well as extensions on both sides of the accommodation decks to house new cabins over the (increased) full beam of the vessel.

Following the structural part, the work included overseeing the complete integration of all ship’s systems including specialist hydrographic and laboratory systems and an innovative IT infrastructure to facilitate the combination of state-of-the-art research facilities with the on board cinematography and media studios.

The project also required Damen to undertake a docking scope, including removal and refurbishment of azipull and bow thrusters, blasting and coating of tanks and complete overhaul and upgrading of crew accommodation.

Research facilities and media studios

The vessel is to contribute to OceanX’s mission – to explore the ocean and bring it back to the world. Upon completion of the project, OceanXplorer is said to have become the most advanced exploration, research and media vessel in the world. As OceanX’s new flagship, it builds on the legacy of the organisation’s first vessel, Alucia.

The vessel is able to collect live samples and bring them aboard where they can be analysed by scientists in state-of-the-art laboratories – with the capabilities, amongst other things, to carry out DNA sequencing. The research facilities are paired with Hollywood quality filming and media studios – developed in partnership with renowned filmmaker James Cameron. With this, the vessel’s findings can be live-streamed to audiences worldwide at the exact moment of discovery.

Damen worked closely with OceanX’s specialist teams, developing the scope of the project in order to fulfil all requirements. This included responsibility for the interior and exterior of the vessel. The ship combines up-to-the-minute research facilities – courtesy of naval architects Skipsteknisk – and interior accommodations designed by Christina Fallah. The vessel’s additional interiors as well as its exterior were styled by Steve Gresham.

‘This has been a challenging project, the result of which we are very proud of,’ says Tjarco Ekkelkamp, project director for the OceanXplorer project at Damen. ‘On the one hand, this shows the extensive capabilities of Damen as a group – the powerful synergies within our group, covering both newbuild and repair & conversion capabilities and spanning commercial vessels and superyachts. On the other, this is a vessel that represents a force for good in the world – one that will enhance human involvement, understanding and ultimately conservation of our oceans. With our strong commitment to maritime sustainability, we are delighted to have played our part in the development of OceanXplorer.’