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Friday, September 21, 2018


In connection with the Volvo Ocean Race (previously known as the Withbread Round the World Race), INTERTANKO members are invited to take part in an educational and scientific project through installation of instrument packages on board their tankers to measure colour and temperature of the ocean. Several owners have already made commitments to carry equipment on some of their ships.


The Volvo Ocean Adventure (VOA) is rapidly becoming a major resource for schools worldwide.  An instrument package is to be placed on each of the yachts competing on the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) to measure the ocean’s colour and temperature, with data being transmitted back to the VOA website in near real time.  These data are then used as the focus for the VOA web-based educational package, which takes students aged 10-16 through key stages in environmental science, geography and general science.  The data are also of key interest to the science community to validate and calibrate satellite systems.  The colour and temperature of the ocean provides information on global climate, pollution and fisheries – all key science areas of contemporary importance.  The project is funded by Volvo (Volvo Car Corp. and AB Volvo-trucks, buses and marine engines), co-ordinated by the Southampton Oceanography Centre, with input from some of the world’s top science groups including NASA, University of Miami, Texas A&M, University of Cape Town, CSIRO (Australia), University of Auckland, IFREMER (France), University of Gothenburg and IFM (Germany).  The state of-the-art instrument package has been developed under SOC’s direction in conjunction with TRIOS (Germany), Saturn Solutions (UK) and The Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.

At present there are two drawbacks – (i) the yachts are not the best base, scientifically, for the package, though for PR they are ideal – (ii) the race runs from September 2001 to May 2002, covering a limited area of ocean and doesn’t recur until September 2005.

It is therefore proposed that the packages developed from the yachts be fitted, during the race, to tankers in the INTERTANKO fleet.  The packages have a number of important advantages over current designs for science instruments on commercial vessels.  They are self-contained, needing only power – no components actually go in the water – they observe from above, making them unique and at the forefront of technology.  They have their own navigational information and satellite transmission system for data relay.  They require either 12 or 24 volt power takeoff and mounting somewhere on the wing bridge of most vessels, requiring about 4 hours work on average.  Finally they will require a member of crew to rinse salt deposits from the lens using freshwater every few days.

The data from the INTERTANKO vessels will be phased in as the VOR reaches it’s finale in Gothenburg/Kiel in May 2002 and will benefit from accompanying publicity.  The data from the tankers will then be used in classrooms across the world as well as forming a key resource for the international science community.  This will not only be in validating satellite earth observing systems such as NASA’s SeaWiFs and MODIS and ESA’s MERIS, but will also contribute to the global monitoring programme for understanding climate change on our planet.  The colour of the ocean tells us about the phytoplankton of the sea (the algae or microscopic plants of the sea) which has a far greater effect on global Carbon Dioxide (the key greenhouse gas) than all the rain forests and other terrestrial sources put together.  In addition they are the first stage in the marine food chain.

More specifically they will give some key information to ship operators relating to ballast tank filling and emptying.  A growing concern for the environment is the risk of introducing alien species as ships take on ballast water in one part of the world and discharge in another.  Alien species can seriously impact the biodiversity of a marine environment and as such an understanding of the conditions surrounding a ship when she takes on water is crucial.  The optical system should provide a warning of unusual phytoplankton and algae conditions, allowing the ship’s master to consider taking on ballast water in a different location.  Linked in with the satellite data it would eventually be possible to identify where clear (safe) water can be obtained.

The requirement

In order to be successful, both as a continuation of the VOA and a scientific tool, the system needs to be fitted initially to a minimum of 10 vessels in the first year, with a view to eventually being fitted to up to 100 once the project has been proven.  This will need funding to fit the packages to each vessel and to scientifically optimise the data (proposed funding a 3-year Ph-D. scholarship of GBP 40.000 over three years.) The cost of entering a tanker in this programme is GBP 16.000.

Benefits to a sponsor

The VOA represents a multi-million dollar programme with growing press coverage.  It provides free educational material in six languages to schools with a target in excess of 15 million users for the first year. The branding of the company, or consortium, funding the work will be clear and of growing prominence as the VOR reaches a climax. In addition, the scientific benefit of the support would not go unnoticed, with credits in resulting publications and again in press, radio and TV coverage. The VOA and VOR are already involved in documentary series for both National Geographic and the BBC World Service.  In this context they will be billed alongside top science organisations, making a clear statement about their own environmental credentials and objectives.


Decisions need to be made by mid August 2001 in order to coincide the launch of this phase of the programme (VOA) with press coverage on the end of the VOR.

INTERTANKO intends to arrange an information meeting in London for interested owners. For further details about the VOA programme, please contact Mr Svein Ringbakken on e-mail