Upgraded research vessel


The return of the upgraded RV Tangaroa represents a huge advancement for New Zealand science and exploration

NIWA today welcomed home RV Tangaroa, New Zealand’s only deepwater research vessel, after a $20 million dollar upgrade to enhance its ocean science and survey capabilities.

Tangaroa is the only ice-strengthened research vessel in the country and NIWA’s base for major offshore, international science work.  The vessel is 20 years old, and the upgrade will now enable Tangaroa to meet New Zealand’s ocean research and survey needs for the next 20 years.

The vessel has spent the last five months in Singapore being extensively upgraded, including the installation of a dynamic positioning (DP) system.
A  DP system is a fully automated system that allows the vessel to remain fixed in a specific position at sea, despite wind, waves, and currents. It also allows the boat to precisely navigate a straight path.

The system installed on Tangaroa is a DP2 system which uses electrically powered thrusters and computerised controls to fix the vessel to a specific area, guided by satellite positioning or transponders on the seabed.

DP2 capabilities are essential for ocean science and marine operations undertaken by oil, gas, and mineral industries, where new technologies often require vessels to hold a steady position. This includes the deployment and use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), manned submarines, seafloor observatories and other equipment temporarily fixed to the seabed, such as seabed samplers and rock coring equipment.

Dynamic positioning is also very important when deploying divers or working around marine construction works, such as oil and gas platforms or pipelines.

There are no other New Zealand-based vessels with DP2 capabilities, meaning New Zealand is becoming increasingly reliant on foreign vessels for marine work requiring precise positioning.

NIWA’s General Manager of Research, Dr Rob Murdoch, says the upgrade to Tangaroa provides New Zealand with a valuable asset to help advance ocean science, surveying and exploration.

“International demand for research and survey vessels with DP2 capabilities has increased a lot over the last few years, especially with the heightened activity in the exploration industries. By installing the DP2, we can provide these capabilities without companies having to look offshore for foreign vessels to do the job. That’s a huge advancement for New Zealand.”

Tangaroa has always had excellent research capabilities, but these improvements will really allow NIWA to meet the future demands of its ocean science and commercial clients. Many oil and gas exploration companies demand dynamic positioning capabilities on vessels as a safety and environmental requirement and now we can provide a vessel locally.”

Other improvements to the vessel included installing new laboratories, upgrading air conditioning systems, refurbishing winches, the galley and dry stores, installing a new deep sea winch and a bridge wing to view gear deployments, and stripping and re-painting the vessel.  

Tangaroa will remain in Wellington for the next few days to undergo final sea trials, before being deployed on its first voyage of 2011 – a fish stock trawl survey over the Chatham Rise.

Quirky facts about the Tangaroa upgrade:

  • About 20 kilometres of new wiring were installed.
  • 207 tonnes of new ballast were installed on the vessel.
  • The new gear box weighs 3.5 tonnes and measures 3 m long by 1 m wide.
  • The new bow module weighs 42 tonnes.
  • The two new generators each weigh around 12 tonnes.

More information:

Animation of the DP in operation, FAQs, and detailed specifications

RV Tangaroa returns to Wellington after an extensive upgrade,including the installation of DP2 dynamic positioning capabilities.


This page has been marked as archived, and is here for historical reference only.

Information provided may be out of date, and you are advised to check for newer sources in this section.

This content may be removed at a later date.