After a series of delays and extended trials, Australia’s new $126 million marine science flagship, Investigator, has been offi cially put to work, but a funding shortfall means it will be in service for only part of the year.
The CSIRO ship is said to offer Australian scientists a global-level research platform but has been funded by the federal government for only 180 of its 300-days-ayear capacity.
With only a sprinkling of short voyages planned for the next six months, instead of the 60 day cruises of which it is capable, the 6,000 tonne ship will flex little of its scientific muscle.
The Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, defended the government’s $65.7 million contribution to running the ship and challenged other agencies or private enterprise to take up the slack. Mr McFarlane said the core funding provided had not been allocated by the previous government, but held out no promise it would increase in the years ahead. “I’d love to see this ship at sea every day,” he said. “And to do that, other agencies and businesses in Australia, who rely on the ocean and the information we get from, it have the opportunity to step up to the plate, and that’s a challenge I’m happy to put to them.”
The Investigator’s first CSIRO voyage will be an 11-day trip in March to the sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean, to place three scientific buoys, before it sails up the coast as far as Brisbane, then takes a 16-day passage back to Sydney in June investigating sea-life on the edge of the East Australian Current.