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Damen Completes Rebuild of 87 Metre OceanXplorer

26 October 2020 • Written by Miranda Blazeby, • Written by Holly Overton

Damen has announced its completion of the cutting-edge research vessel OceanXplorer following an extensive two-year rebuild project.

Previously codenamed Alucia2, OceanXplorer is now touted as the most advanced exploration and research vessel in the world, featuring a state-of-the-art scientific research station and a Hollywood-level media production studio developed in partnership with renowned filmmaker James Cameron.

The 87 metre vessel is the flagship of the OceanX fleet, a non-profit ocean exploration and media company spearheaded by billionaire Ray Dalio and his son Mark Dalio. OceanXplorer builds on the success of OceanX's first research vessel, named Alucia, and will continue its mission to uncover the secrets of the ocean and help protect the marine habitat.

Capable of mapping the depths of the oceans, the supersized explorer features sonar arrays, a series of submersibles, a dedicated ROV deployment bay, a forward helicopter landing deck with adjacent climate-controlled hangar and aft deck launch and side boarding systems for scuba divers. The upper deck also features a 40-ton crane and a 40-ton A-frame for the launch and recovery of all her explorative equipment. 

Tjarco Ekkelkamp, project director for the OceanXplorer project at Damen said: “This has been a challenging project, the result of which we are very proud of. On the one hand, this shows the extensive capabilities of Damen as a group. 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.”

OceanXplorer started life as a former offshore survey ship named Volstad Surveyor before heading to Damen Shiprepair in Rotterdam. The rebuild works were intensive with the addition of an integrated heli hangar in the superstructure, as well as extensions on both sides of the accommodation decks to house new cabins. The work also involved the integration of specialist hydrographic and lavatory systems, media studios, and state-of-the-art-research facilities. The vessel was re-designed both inside and out by Steve Gresham.

Also on board are a number of both piloted and autonomous underwater drones and two manned Triton submersibles, each of which can dive to depths exceeding 1000-metres.

OceanXplorer also boasts a media production studio with filmmaking capabilities developed with director James Cameron, allowing the team to create high-quality films at sea. OceanXplorer features state-of-the-art wet and dry marine research labs for analysing scientific discoveries. 

The explorer is to become the subject of a six-part documentary series entitled Mission: OceanX, co-produced by OceanX and BBC Studios, along with James Cameron for National Geographic.

Speaking about the project, OceanX co-founder, Ray Dalio, said: "The ship OceanXplorer will take ocean explorers to never-before-seen undersea worlds and allow them to beam back what they encounter via social media, digital experiences, and a TV show. It will be mind-blowing."

OceanX founder and creative director, Mark Dalio, added: "OceanXplorer will allow us to pair science and media together like never before and share the excitement and wonder of ocean exploration with a global audience in real time."

Interior areas were penned by Gresham Yacht Design

Designed to build upon the success of the 55.75 metre Alucia (the initiative's production arm was formerly known as Alucia Productions), which appeared in the BBC’s highly popular Blue Planet II series, OceanXplorer was built by Freire and launched in 2010.

Image courtesy of Tom van Oossanen

Design input has been provided by London-based Gresham Yacht Design. The studio previously said: “The biggest challenge has been making sure that the vessel satisfies the demands of differing disciplines, from the scientist through to the operators of the submarines, ROVs, helicopters and film production."

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