Hydrographic Survey and different types of ships used as research vessels


While ships such as cargo carriers and passenger ships are used for commerce, there is another category of ships known as research vessels which are used for carrying out different types of research and in this article we will be learning about these different types of ships used for research and science exploration.

Types of Research Vessels

Ships are not meant for warfare or profitability purposes alone. The ocean is filled with treasures in the form of knowledge which has to be explored and research ships do exactly the same. There are various sub types of research ships as follows.

  • Military Research – it may be necessary to scan the oceans for the presence of certain types of strategic dangers such as explosives, submarines and mines. This is infact more of a military investigation rather than purely academic research and requires special ships which have the necessary equipment in the form of sonar detectors, mine detectors and so forth which help to carry out this type of search.

  • Civilian Research – nautical charts are used by navigating officers to plot the route on the surface of the sea when going from point A to point B. These charts are prepared by the research ships which scan the ocean floors with the necessary equipment and hence prepare regional charts which are used for marine navigational purposes. This type of research is also known as hydrographic survey and apart from drawing nautical charts, it can also be useful in detecting faults in the sea bed which could help seismic scientists in their studies.

  • Oil Research – you have been reading articles on oil drilling under the deep sea. There are special ships which carry out research to find out whether there is a possibility of finding oil beneath the sea floor at a particular region so that it can be drilled for oil.

  • Marine Life Research – biologists are interested in studying the types and variety of marine life at various regions in the oceans and this could help them to solve several mysteries which could be related to the origin of life itself or the verification of certain rumours such as the Loch Ness Monster.

  • Oceanography Research – this research is related to studying the various properties of sea water, the marine environment and other related parameters for scientific purposes and special ships are used by scientists for carrying out such research. One prominent institute involved in this type of research is the ORI located at Durban in South Africa.

It is worthwhile to note that though there are so many types of researches carried out at sea, there may not be a line of clear demarcation between the ships used for these types of research. Sometimes a ship may be used for multiple purposes e.g. a hydrographic survey vessel might also have the equipment to detect presence of oil and gas as well as detect the presence of mines or submarines.

Research ships might have to go to harsh environment such as the Polar Regions hence most of these research vessels have somewhat similar design to the ice breakers i.e. double hull design plus other features depending on which type of ship it is and for what all purposes can it be used.

R/V Image Gallery

Fisheries Research
A Hi-Tech R/V
Navy Research Vessel
Oceanographic Research

Image Credits

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Govt of USA

Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Japan

United States Navy