Oceanographic vessels play a key role in the modern day oceanic research and it can be recognized as the most important tool that determined the evolution of oceanic research in the last decade. These vessels consist of state of the art equipment and are designed to withstand the rigors of nature in order to carry out their research tasks even in the harshest of seas.
Although oceanographic vessels are not as large as most ships, one important feature displayed by such vessels is the efficiency in managing a moderate amount of space. An oceanographic vessel should be able to undertake both deep water and shallow water oceanographic research. Therefore, the designers of such vessels need to pay more attention to making these vessels highly robust and extra efficient than designing the same as "super structures." In general, such vessels carry around 10 to 15 workers and a similar number of scientists, although these numbers can vary significantly from one vessel to another.
The design of oceanographic vessels allows them to spend more than 30 to 40 days at sea at a time and travel a span of around 10,000 nautical miles during such stays. Thus, such ships should be strong enough to endure the rough seas and extreme wind conditions, while being efficient and environmentally friendly in its energy consumption. Being environmentally friendly is a notable characteristic of an oceanographic vessel, which undertakes research related to coastal and deep-water ecosystems, which may otherwise be at danger from such vessels. Most research vessels are build around an ice breaker hull, which allows them to navigate and work in harsh northern waters even during the winter months.
When discussing the types of equipment that are integrated within an oceanographic research vessel, different types of environmental sensors can be named as highly important for the researchers. At the same time, such vessels also carry equipment capable of hydrographic sounding of the seabed. Newer vessels designed for oceanographic research may also contain underwater acoustic positioning systems, a unique hull form and a central cooling system to provide heating, ventilation and air conditioning. In addition, the new Armstrong-Class auxiliary general oceanographic research (AGOR) vessels also contain deep water multibeam survey systems, sub-bottom profiling systems to map various marine sediment layers, acoustic doppler current profilers (ADCP) to measure water current velocities, and acoustic navigation and tracking systems (ANTS).
These ships will also contain facilities to do laboratory research on board the vessel and would also be equipped with computer laboratories. Furthermore, some oceanographic research vessels would also carry unmanned underwater vehicles, which are sometimes capable of making dives to depths unreachable to researchers in the past.
In addition, certain oceanographic research vessels are equipped with specialized equipment depending on the research endeavor that they are expected to undertake. However, if the research vessel does not have the capacity to store and carry a large amount of oceanic samples and a considerable amount of scientific payload, it may fail to fulfill its intended objectives. Therefore, all oceanographic research vessels are designed to have enough storage facilities to store not only scientific payloads and samples, but also other items necessary for a lengthy ocean voyage.