NERC Post-Cruise Assessment Form
Principal Scientists and Charterers should complete this form. This will enable NERC to monitor the performance of its
research ship and technician/equipment support operations.
[Completed forms should be sent via email to Andy Louch, RSU Operations (email@example.com) for onward circulation to
Ship: RRS Discovery Cruise no. D294 (AMT 16) Dates: 19/05 – 29/06
PS name: Tony Bale Institution & position: PML Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Work type: Upper Ocean Biogeochemistry Area of operation: Central Atlantic, 31S - 50 N
Master: Robin Plumley Tech Liaison Officer: Jon Short
Please tick the appropriate box A to E and add comments if required.
(A = Excellent; B = Good; C = Average; D = Poor; E = Unacceptable)
A B C D E Comments
Pre-cruise planning X All the arrangements made at the planning stage were effected; the only
potential ‘snag’ was the request to delay sailing by 4 days which was
Mobilisation support X Because of the previous trials cruise, and number of UKORS staff and
crew support, this went extremely smoothly.
Onboard marine support X The standard of service provided has been excellent with good
communications and co-operation.
Onboard technical support X We have been fortunate to have 5 OED technical support staff led by an
extremely competent TLO and have enjoyed a very high standard of
support –around the clock.
Ship/technical/scientific staff X All operations and communications very efficient; excellent co-operation
Demobilisation support Unknown as yet
Suitability of “pool” X Mostly OK, lot of problems with 20L bottles failing to close; Milli-Q
equipment system struggled to cope; MVP failed half way through cruise. Initial
problems with SAPs cured by UKORS staff.
Facilities in laboratories X Adequate but shabby and areas of corrosion of painted and galvanised
units are problematic in a laboratory environment. Mounting struts
insufficient in places to allow equipment to be secured to the walls
Fixed scientific facilities X Most systems worked well but the non-toxic seawater supply system was
found to be fouled and supporting a community of small bivalves when it
was first operated on leaving Cape Town
Safety instruction X Clear and well-delivered
Onboard safety practices X High standard of safety awareness
Onboard hotel facilities X The only concern here was over the quality of the drinking water. At the
outset the water had a strong ‘organic’ smell and taste. It was also
contaminated with brown/green particulate sludge. This did improve.
Onboard catering service X Very good and much appreciated. The use of plastic-wrapped sachets for
sauces and condiments should be questioned on environmental grounds.
Cleanliness of ship X Internally the ship is maintained to a reasonable standard of cleanliness.
However, the decks and particularly the hanger were dirty.
Cleanliness of scientific labs X The dirty environment of the hanger and (to a lesser extent) the side
decks, makes it difficult to keep the lab clean.
Are there any Safety Points which were raised during the cruise/charter still “open”. No
If so detail (on separate page if necessary).
Do you wish to be informed of “actions and closure” after leaving the ship. Yes (to AMT project Office – C. Robinson)
Please provide the following information on attached sheets.
1. Were the science objectives of this cruise met? Please explain, especially if the objectives were not met
2. The number of lost days and the reason for lost days
3. Are there any changes that you recommend to improve results and/or safety before the ship is used again for this or
4. Please make suggestions for improving the pre-cruise planning and co-ordination, logistics, shore support or living
conditions on the ship
5. Please make any comments regarding the ship’s operation, equipment, ship’s personnel, technicians, shore support or
D 294/ AMT 16 Tony Bale, PML
1. The objectives of the cruise were mostly met apart from the loss of some 10 stations on the west-going leg from Cape
Town because, at that time, due to the delay in sailing and other factors, we thought we would not have sufficient time for
station work in the northern and central gyres which were the key areas of study for this AMT. In the event, the performance
of the ship, good weather and efficient station work meant that we recouped some of the time lost and, as a consequence,
gained extra track in the north western central gyre. We completed 67 Stations out of a potential 79 in the time originally
available (or 67/77 = 87%) excluding 2 stations dropped for mid-cruise breaks.
2. I estimate we lost 30 hours (3 stations) by sailing at 1700 on the 20th because of welding work, air conditioning repairs
and winch trials rather than early on the 19th. Work on the air con was obviously time well-spent but it has taken a long time
to resolve. Fortunately, the delay in Cape Town did allow us to receive chemicals delayed by customs that we would
otherwise have sailed without. We also lost 20 hours returning to Saldana Bay to disembark the 3rd Mate which cost us 2
stations and, though unfortunate, none of us would wish any different if we were in that situation. For the following two days
we steamed west without working stations in order to make up time (cost 4 stations) – although, in reality, the weather would
probably have been too extreme to work 2 of these stations. We then dropped 3 more stations by working 1station per day
instead of 2 from the 25th to 27th May, in order to make up station time. We also cut a day’s steaming from the north going
track by intersecting 25 W at 25 S rather than 28 S. We dropped stations on the 7th and 12th June for mid-cruise breaks.
In summary: 10 stations were lost in the west-going leg due to delayed sailing and returning to Soldana Bay
although 2 of these would probably have been lost due to poor weather. 2 stations were dropped for mid-cruise breaks. 180
miles of ‘track’ was abandoned in the southern gyre but something like 500 miles was added in the northern gyre.
3. There are no recommendations regarding safety (which is given a high profile and implemented rigorously on Discovery).
In relation to results, my only comments (see 5 below) relate either to equipment or ship design (age?) factors that are
4 Pre-cruise planning, logistics and shore support. I was not personally involved in the pre-cruise planning meeting but
there were no serious planning problems encountered during mobilisation or the voyage. Through negotiation with Andy
Louch, the cruise was delayed for four days over the original planned departure to allow more extended trials post refit in
Cape Town; most of the scientific party were able to re-organise their travel and domestic arrangements. Having joined the
vessel, sailing was further delayed due to requirements to remedy air conditioning, undertake winch trials, and for welding to
the deck above the chemistry laboratory.
There was confusion (and some hassle) at Immigration for scientific personnel arriving at Cape Town because no covering
letter was provided for the SA Immigration Officials. It is not clear to me whether this is a PML logistics or RSU
responsibility but it needs to be clarified for future similar mobilisations in foreign ports. The Agent was uncertain how
many people he was collecting at the Airport despite clear guidance from PML. A succession of problems arose because of
customs clearance of chemicals –suppliers generally let us down despite saying they could provide materials easily. The
Agent was extremely helpful in expediting customs clearance for chemicals and some equipment (and I would like our
appreciation to be passed on). The area of chemical supply and transport through foreign ports needs careful thought in
future – whole areas of the scientific work could have been completely jeopardised without some of the chemicals.
Living conditions. The on board hotel facilities were mostly fine though several mentioned that the sheets were too
small for the mattresses. The one major concern here was over the quality of the drinking water. The water had a strong
‘organic’ smell and taste. It was also contaminated with brown/green sludge though, without microscopic examination, it is
difficult to characterise this exactly. Although the tank water improved in the last week, bottled drinking water ran out at the
equator so, at a time when potential dehydration was worst, the ships company were having to drink water which they found
unpalatable and, with chemists and biologists on board, the psychological stress of suspecting that the water was probably
noxious and possibly carcinogenic was worse. The gymnasium facility was appreciated and well-used. The single bar and
restaurant works well in my view. In line with NERC policy for it’s buildings, I would not encourage smoking anywhere
within the ship; the odour of tobacco in the duty coffee ‘shop’ is unpleasant to non smokers. An air extractor/filter here may
help but the duty mess tends to be dominated by a minority of smokers and the non-smokers end up taking their coffee to the
laboratories or elsewhere. The lounge bar is an important recreational facility and should continue to be operated in a
responsible manner for the pleasure of all. In my view, the Bar Committee, rather than just concentrating on the mechanics
of the bar operation, need to set, by example and through a code of acceptable behaviour, standards over issues such as
language, dress and music volume. Several of the party were surprised that there were no wireless or ethernet network for
PCs in cabins. The number and quality of general-use, networked PCs is poor. The PS Office could use a dedicated,
networked PC. An ice machine in the restaurant or ‘smoking room’ for use with soft drinks would be an advantage when
the bar is closed during the day.
5. Ships personnel, technical and science party: We have enjoyed an exceptionally productive working relationship
between ships company, UKORS staff and the scientific party.
Ship operation, Technical problems with the ship have been negligible other than with the CTD winch system
outlined below. Most fixed systems worked well , however, 1) the non-toxic seawater supply system was found to be fouled
and supporting a community of small bivalves when it was first operated on leaving Cape Town. In the first week this caused
significant problems to the large number of ‘underway’ instruments (both fixed and those installed by the scientific party)
that relied on this supply. These problems ranged from fluorescence contamination and oxygen depletion to blockage of
valves and connectors with debris. Even at the end of the cruise there was a suspicion that oxygen levels in the underway
system were lower than in-situ (CTD) values which may be due to oxygen scavenging by organic debris in the system. This
is completely unacceptable in a ‘first division’ research vessel. Action needs to be taken to isolate the inlet of this system and
to sterilise the pipe runs, sea chests and pumps completely when the non-toxic water system is shut down for more than a
day- especially in warm environments. 2) The dated underway data acquisition system requires a make-shift set-up to access
data in real time. 3) The laboratories were tidy on arrival but it is clear that because of the nature of the floor covering,
thorough cleaning is difficult. A lot of effort was put in during D294 to remove tar? spots (presumably carried in from the
deck on footware previously) using cleaning solvents and, with scrubbing and mopping, the floors improved over this cruise.
However, the dirty environment of the hanger and (to a lesser extent) the side decks, makes it difficult to keep the
laboratories clean. 4) Internally the ship is maintained to a reasonable standard of cleanliness. However, the decks and
particularly the hanger were dirty. We asked to have the hangar pressure cleaned and this was done but with poor grace by
the crew involved. In the process, the side blast also managed to contaminate the clean CTD bottles with iron oxide. The
cleanliness of the hanger is not helped by the fact that it traps standing water in the drain systems which leads to corrosion of
metal work around the base of the internal structure, and because it is also used as an engineering workshop annex. No
action was ever taken to clean the red dust, whether atmospheric or rust wash-out, from the working decks. The internal
hanger needs to have the water accumulation sorted-out, and regular cleaning (and painting?) to stay on top of the corrosion
and accumulating grime that then pervades the rest of the ship. Perversely, painting of the Monkey Island invalidated several
days aerosol collection from the sampler located there. The Deck Lab and Main Lab also suffer through being part of the
main thoroughfare for ships company between the decks and accommodation. There is a clear need on subsequent NERC
ships for a changing lobby between labs and deck ,as on the BAS-operated James Clark Ross, where scientists protective
clothing and deck footwear can be removed and stored before entering the lab. This would a) aid sensible storage of these
items away from the laboratory, b) reduce the transport of dirt on overalls and footwear into the labs and subsequently to the
accommodation. I think, as a community, we have to recognise that the increasing sophistication of the analytical work and
molecular biology undertaken in present-day biogeochemical oceanographic research, will require ever more stringent
laboratory cleanliness. The wet lab is particularly degraded by corrosion and leaking sink wastes. The (aftermost, central)
tap supplying the stainless sinks in the Deck Lab leaked into the space below the sink and, although temporarily tightened, it
needs to be properly repaired before the next cruise departs.
Equipment: The CTD winch and some of the instrumentation has given a number of problems: 1) The 20L bottles
on the ‘stainless’ CTD/rosette incurred a high number of failures to close adequately (36 bottles in 34 casts) which appeared
randomly distributed among bottles. This is unacceptable, particularly in work where the water budget is tight and, as was the
case here, on-going experiments were dependent on water from given depths (we repeated a cast to obtain essential water).
The line that this is ‘normal’ is not acceptable; effort needs to be expended with the manufacturers and with trials to get to the
bottom of the problem. 2) The Milli-Q system was unreliable, leaked, and used cartridges at an alarming rate (probably not
helped by the contaminated fresh water situation). It is scary to realise that 90% of the laboratory work, and thus cruise
output, was totally dependent on this one item which is clearly elderly. Only the unrelenting patience and diligence of Emma
Northrop kept us in business. The Milli-Q UHP water system, as a general rule, should be installed over a sink or within a
dedicated large plastic tray draining to a sink. 3) The MVP is a potentially useful tool but recurring problems with the tow
wire/winch meant that the instrument became unusable after about half way through the passage. Also, problems with
sensors and connections meant that the useable data was limited when it was working. UKORS staff on board are to be
congratulated for the effort put into trying to resolve confusion over which data stream was which and for keeping the system
going as long as it did but, clearly, the tow wire should have been replaced after the previous ‘fish’ was lost. 4) One out of
three of the SAP pumps failed for the first 5 deployments but work by UKORS engineers got all three running correctly for
the last 8 deployments. 5) We experienced a significant number of CTD wire problems due to ‘torque‘ and spooling
‘snags’. Large amounts of wire were cropped and three CTD casts were lost (no CTD data on 3 Stations) due to conductor
failures also necessitating cropping and re-termination. UKORS and ship staff worked hard to overcome these problems.
Streaming the wire has probably helped. The CTD wire is also corroded and continuously releases iron oxide (rust) into the
water during deployments. Since much of the nutrient limitation work on-board is iron-related, this is an area for concern.
1) Provide a list of available underway sensors, locations and maintenance schedules.
2) Need a networkable, underway sensor data acquisition system
3) More bolts, eyes, struts for equipment mounts and grid of sockets for floor mounting in labs.
4) Another - 80oC freezer is required as ever-more sophisticated biological work makes –20oC inadequate for many uses
5) Good quality, rubber based, soft bristle floor mats on each Labs entrance would help with lab cleanliness.