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EUROFLEETS2 Report Summary

Project ID: 312762
Country: France

Periodic Report Summary 2 - EUROFLEETS2 (New operational steps towards an alliance of European research fleets)

Project Context and Objectives:
Marine environment represents a huge potential of economic growth with a vast universe of unexplored natural resources. This universe opens a myriad of opportunities that can contribute to the European economic competitiveness. Furthermore marine environment knowledge is crucial for a sustainable exploitation of its natural resources. As a research arena, the ocean is costly to access, highly variable and very unpredictable. This, together with increasing societal demands and present financial constraints, explains that European marine research should open a new integration phase with a long-term approach.

The FP7-funded EUROFLEETS2 project is the enhancement of the EUROFLEETS(1) European project and is consolidating the alliance of marine research centres, universities and industrialists from the European Union (EU) and its associated countries initiated in EUROFLEETS(1) and enlarged to the Polar research fleets community under EUROFLEETS2. Such wide partnership and resource sharing will contribute to improve the quality of marine research and to valorize Marine Board past initiatives and know-how accumulated through EUROFLEETS(1) and other European projects like BONUS 185, ERICON-AB or SeaDataNet.

Research Vessels (RVs) and their embarked equipment are crucial infrastructures required for marine sciences. They provide sea access to the whole community of researchers, enable all kinds of observations, in-situ measurements, sampling and mapping, and are necessary to maintain deep sea observatories. Over the years, the missions assigned to RVs became more complex and technically sophisticated. This encouraged national marine institutions to increase their coordination and collaboration, and sharing of facilities in order to optimize the cost in operating their marine infrastructures and to meet the scientific ever increasing demands.

Following the perspectives opened by EUROFLEETS(1) for an enhanced coordination of these marine infrastructures at European level, EUROFLEETS2 aims to contribute to the development of a new pan-European distributed infrastructure with common strategic vision and coordinated access to RVs and their embarked equipment, in order to facilitate the access to these rare floating laboratories and maximize their contribution to the scientific knowledge.

By bringing together research fleet owners and operators, EUROFLEETS2 contributes to enhance operational coordination between RVs and associated equipment. Through operational initiatives such as virtual fleets or the development of common tools or methodologies, it promotes more inter-operable and cost-effective European research fleets for sustainable management of regional seas and oceans. EUROFLEETS2 will also develop the impact of research infrastructures on innovation by establishing links with industry and fostering the involvement of the industrial sector on specific activities.

EUROFLEETS2 as the continuation of EUROFLEETS(1) involves multi-disciplinary expertise split among thirty-one marine institutes, universities, foundations and SMEs from twenty member states of the European Union, four associated countries (Norway, Turkey, Croatia and Faeroe Islands) and one Overseas Country and Territory (Greenland), namely AWI (Germany), CNR (Italy), CSIC (Spain), DFKI (Germany), DTU Aqua (Denmark), ESF (France), EurOcean (Portugal), FAMRI (Faeroe Islands), GeoEcoMar (Romania), GINR (Greenland), HCMR (Greece), IEO (Spain), Ifremer (France), IMR (Norway), IO-BAS (Bulgaria), IOF (Croatia), IOPAN (Poland), IPEV (France), Maris (Netherlands), Marum (Germany), MI (Ireland), OGS (Italy), PROLLiON (France), RBINS (Belgium), SHIP STUDIO (France), SPRS (Sweden), TUBITAK (Turkey), TUT (Estonia), UdG (Spain), UNIZG-FER (Croatia) and VLIZ (Belgium).

The objectives of the Project are ambitious and cover three activities: Trans National Access (TNA), Networking Activity (NA) and Joint Research Activity (JRA).

The European funding is valorized through the TNA as core activity of the Project, in order to open free of charge access to twenty-two European RVs and five pieces of equipment on basis of scientific excellence. Five pan-European calls have been or will be organized to this purpose: three “Regional” calls targeting specific geographic areas, one innovative “Super-Integration” (multi-platforms) call aiming to identify one flagship proposal requesting one or several RVs in combination with other infrastructures, and one original “Embarked Equipment” call aiming to deploy underwater equipment during nationally-funded cruises, so fostering inter-operability within European research fleets.
The scientific excellence of submitted proposals is evaluated according to the European and independent evaluation process successfully developed within EUROFLEETS(1).

NA objectives are wide and diverse: i) the strategic vision to propose future integration steps to volunteering European research fleets, ii) the flagship initiative for polar access aiming to propose coordination schemes for the European Polar RVs, iii) the initiatives (like virtual fleets) towards coordinated and cost-efficient operational activities (update and further development of the EVIOR platform is planned under this task, as well as the deployment of the Eurofleets Automatic Reporting System “EARS” on board European RVs), iv) the innovation promotion and fostering of industrial partnership, and v) the training and formation of scientists through on-board training courses. NA also includes the preparation and evaluation of TNA calls.

JRAs include three R&D projects, concerning the developments of i) generic designs for future Regional RVs, ii) embarked software to harmonize and standardize workflows from on-board data acquisition to onshore data storage by marine data centres, and iii) innovative technologies for underwater equipment (optical 3D-based methods for mapping and control strategy, and new innovative compact batteries).

In the continuity of EUROFLEETS(1), EUROFLEETS2 is coordinated by Ifremer (France). The Ifremer Coordinating team is helped by three activity coordinators from IMR (Norway) for NA, MI (Ireland) for TNA, and RBINS (Belgium) for JRA. AWI (Germany) is in charge of the preparation, organization and evaluation of the 5 TNA calls. EurOcean (Portugal) is in charge of the Project communication.

The Project overall budget is nearly 11 million euros, on which the European Union granted 9 million euros for four years.

Project Results:
The EUROFLEETS2 project completed its first thirty-six months, with a chosen 6-month overlap period with the EUROFLEETS(1) European project to ensure continuity in the Trans National Access (TNA) activity, maintain dynamic working relationship between both projects’ beneficiaries and limit loss of data and information. The EUROFLEETS2 project obtained many results since its beginning and it successfully completed its Mid Term Review in March 2015.
From the Kick-Off Meeting held in Brest (France) in March 2013, the opening of the TNA calls was considered as the most urgent task. Ship-time and equipment-time funding was the result of a competitive evaluation based on the evaluation system successfully developed during the EUROFLEETS(1) project. Scientists got access to RVs and equipment on basis of scientific excellence, and the individual assessment of proposals by experts in the respective field of research formed an integrative and essential part of the access modalities. Five TNA calls were successfully launched and evaluated: i) three Regional calls (one of them targeting polar and sub-polar areas), ii) the flagship Super-integration call, all four together offering access to 22 Research Vessels (RVs), and iii) the Embarked Equipment call offering deployment of 5 pieces of equipment on board European RVs.

In total, 50 proposals were submitted, generating a huge partnership of scientists working for more than 180 European and international institutions and universities from 39 countries. Scientific and logistic evaluations resulted to the selection for funding of 24 proposals, representing 211 days of ship-time and 25 days of equipment-time.

Various lessons were learnt from these five calls:
- The launching of ship-time calls per geographical areas enables a higher ratio (48%) between funded proposals and received proposals than experienced during the first EUROFLEETS project;
- The reasons behind the limited number of proposals submitted to the first call on Arctic and Antarctic areas might come from i) the limited working areas and time windows offered due to the tight schedule of the heavily booked ice-class RVs and ii) the limited time for advertising and for submitting proposals (2.5 months) since the call opened very early in the Project life. Some of the RVs accessible in polar and sub-polar areas were consequently re-opened at the next calls, what enabled to receive additional proposals;
- It is very difficult for a scientist who has been allocated a scheduled cruise to use additional equipment on this cruise, and so to modify the evaluated scope of work. For this reason, the access to EUROFLEETS2 equipment was opened during the Embarked equipment call and also during the second and third Regional ship-time calls, in order to offer the possibility to request an equipment combined or not with a EUROFLEETS2 RV.

Among the 24 scientific projects selected for funding, 11 (46%) TNA cruises were successfully carried out before end of December 2015: two proposals accommodated together on board the Norwegian RV G.O. Sars, one on board RV Sanna from Greenland jointly conducted with another cruise funded by an US program allowing for optimal use of ship-time and more efficient operations at sea, one proposal on board the Spanish Hesperides in Antarctic, one proposal each on board the Irish RVs Celtic Voyager and Celtic Explorer, one proposal on board the RV Magnus Heinason from Faroe Islands, one proposal on board the RV Salme in Baltic sea in collaboration with a BONUS project, one cruise on board the Croatian RV BIOS DVA, and the Super-Integration cruise carried out on board the Spanish RV Sarmiento De Gamboa and the Greek RV Aegaeo in South Italian waters. The proposal selected within the “Embarked Equipment” call resulted in the deployment of the Greek ROV Max Rover from the RV Sarmiento de Gamboa within a nationally-funded cruise of 11 days in 2015.

The 11 projects funded so far enabled on board access to 124 scientists and 50 additional scientists participated to these cruises as remote users, altogether working for institutions from 20 European countries and other international countries such as Brazil, Russia and United States.

For all funded cruises, scientific teams were also encouraged to embark students and, for the first time within both EUROFLEETS projects, a high-school teacher was assigned to a cruise by the EGU Committee on Education through the Geosciences Information For Teachers (GIFT) program.

Joint Research Activities firstly concentrated their efforts in establishing roadmaps for the developments planned within the Project, and achieved good progress.

- Referring to “Regional RVs (RRVs) guidelines and generic designs”, two guidelines on noise and vibration reduction and on work deck arrangements were completed and recommendations established for the design and building of interoperable Regional RVs. Two preliminary generic basic designs for multi-purpose RRVs have been developed, both taking advantages of produced guidelines and recommendations: a first design aiming to operate in open European seas and a second design intended to operate in shallow coastal areas (semi-open European seas, e.g. Baltic and/or Black Sea) with lower maintenance costs due to reduced overall dimension. In parallel, the working group started to work on guidelines and recommendations on innovative technologies for optimization of existing ships;

- Innovative methods applicable to Hybrid and Autonomous Underwater Systems have been further developed and tested at sea for optical 3D based dynamic positioning, target tracking and terrain following. Significant progress has been achieved on high level 3D mapping reconstruction using acoustic data for path planning and using optical data with stereo images, enabling the development of operational tools and the incorporation of the developed work in several collaborative research articles. Partners from Croatia, France, Germany and Spain involved in this work have shown strong synergies through complementary developments, joint integration and experiments on their operational platforms. The other activity aiming to develop and test innovative pressure tolerant batteries based on Lithium technologies successfully tested an operational demonstrator with all battery components qualified for 6000 m water depth.

- Finally, the other R&D activity dedicated to software tools was very active and focused on further integration of ontology in the Eurofleets Automatic Reporting System (EARS), including the development of a Web service layer designed to bring flexibility and facilitate the software deployment on board European RVs, and also enabling to ensure the necessary communication between onshore ontology servers and onboard web ontology services. A Data Acquisition prototype integrating several onboard sensors was developed and is ready for operational tests at sea. Both developments are connected, with standardization and use of common vocabularies as central aim, through synergy with the FP7 SeaDataNet2 project and the international ODIP platform.

To foster industrial partnership and promote technology transfer and innovation, results of Joint Research Activities and existing links between partners and industrialists are followed up. Good progress was made on the subject “Sensor Web Enablement (SWE)” also developed under the software activity and aiming to define SensorML and Observations & Measurements profiles for a number of oceanographic instruments for use at vessels and oceanographic platforms. An inventory of instrument manufacturers with potential interest was prepared and a workshop was organized by EUROFLEETS2 at Oceanology International 2016 to present EARS and SWE developments, with contributions of other projects such as SeaDataNet2, BRIDGES, FixO3, JericoNext, NeXOS, SenseOcean, Schema, ODIP and USA projects (IOOS, X-DOMES) to give an overview of the present states of SWE developments and to organize a panel discussion.

As part of the Networking activities, EUROFLEETS2 ensures through its Fleet Evolution Group (FEG) the follow-up of the status and evolution of European Research fleets. Following the FEG recommandations to keep the European Research Vessels Database maintained by EurOcean ( as the main reference Infobase for European RVs, the FEG proposed to refine some descriptive parameters and to implement appropriate filters enabling to better classify Global, Ocean, Regional, Coastal and Local RVs, and so allow inter-comparison with international fleets. In 2016, the group also launched with a more comprehensive approach an update of the European RVs inventory and renewal plans made in EUROFLEETS(1). By considering all together Global, Ocean, Regional RVs (RRVs), and also part of the Coastal ones having an activity of “regional dimension”, their technical capacities and areas of operation, the on-going survey will contribute to identify available capacities in the European maritime basins and so to better determine where and how cooperation and coordination could be more developed. In parallel, the FEG suggested to implement annual meetings dedicated to mutual presentation of national schedules between countries operating RVs in the same geographical areas. This recommendation was followed by the European Research Vessels Operators (ERVO) group in 2016 with a focus on operational activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In order to foster future transnational use of marine infrastructures and integration at European level, the Project also worked on the “virtual fleets” concept and on different options (ranging from a loose network to the establishment of a pan-European Distributed Research Infrastructure) that could serve as essential steps in working closer together with reference to operating the European RRVs.

- The EUROFLEETS2 flagship initiative for polar access produced an analysis of the status and foreseeable evolution of the European and international Polar Research Fleets and equipment, composed of 14 heavy icebreakers empowered to carry out research in all Polar Regions and 18 ice-strengthened RVs available at global scale. Only two of the heavy icebreakers are based within the European Union (Polarstern for Germany and Oden for Sweden), when 12 of the ice-strengthened RVs are European. This work was complemented by the analysis of the capacity of the EU polar fleet to perform year round, regular research operations in ice-covered areas. In order to identify high priority investigation areas and equipment requirement, the working group also produced an analysis of the most relevant international polar plans and identified the major scientific core topics. Despite the increasing interest in polar marine research, the big impact of the European scientific community at international level and the growing demand of polar research infrastructures, the work shows that the capacity of the European Polar Fleet and the infrastructures does not meet the requirements of the scientific demand, even when considering the ongoing construction projects of new icebreakers.
The work performed by the group suggests where efforts should be focused to maintain the competitiveness of European polar research. This could be also achieved by more and better cooperation within Europe and with the international partners, especially from Canada and the US.

- EUROFLEETS2 also contributes to the training of the next generation of European marine scientists and technicians, and to broaden the access to world-class marine infrastructures by promoting the excellence of scientists from non- or less-equipped countries. In this perspective, the Project organized in February 2014 (Tallin, Estonia) a workshop aiming to train students and junior scientists and to promote participation to TNA calls. Three training courses for multidisciplinary oceanographic research were also carried out on board the Italian RV Urania and Estonian RV Salme in 2014, and on board the Croatian RV BIOS DVA in 2015 with an increasing interest of students since 110 on-line applications were received for 12 berths available on board. This interest was confirmed by the Floating University organized on board the Danish RV Dana during a transit between Tromsø (Norway) and Hirtshals (Denmark) in 2015 with 198 applicants for 18 berths on board. This course was open for MSc and PhD students and was credited as a 5 ECTS through the Technical University of Denmark, MSc programme in Aquatic Science and Technology.

- Infobases (Cruise Programs, Cruise Summary Reports, European RV and Large Exchangeable Instruments) in the European Virtual Infrastructure in Ocean Research (EVIOR) platform developed within EUROFLEETS(1) in cooperation with the SeaDataNet infrastructure, POGO (Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans) and EurOcean were regularly updated. The EVIOR platform is accessible from the Project public website (

- In addition to the EUROFLEETS2 public website and e-newsletters which are two major communication tools, project’s beneficiaries actively contributed to the promotion and dissemination of EUROFLEETS2 through participation to many conferences and workshops, and discussion on possible cooperation with other projects. In this view, and for many of its activities, EUROFLEETS2 has developed partnerships and collaborations with infrastructure and EU projects, and also with international partners. In this context, collaborations were developed with ERA-Can+ and with the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, through sharing information of mutual interest and promotion of the EUROFLEETS2 strategic views relevant to trans-Atlantic Marine Research Cooperation.

Potential Impact:
* Expected final results

The next months will be very active and many results and achievements are still awaited during the last year of the Project.

- 13 TransNational Access (TNA) funded cruises are expected to be carried out. Communication with Principal Investigators (PIs) of funded cruises will be dense in order to get their feed-back and all information necessary to promote cruises’ results. A detailed analysis of call results and achievements will be also produced to contribute to the Project’s strategic vision, in particular to explore scenarios and opportunities for a sustainable funding stream for TNA. Experience learnt from TNA ship-time and equipment calls will be analyzed in order to describe fundamental rules for the establishment of an European Evaluation System.

Scientific publications related to TNA funded cruises of both EUROFLEETS(1) & 2 projects will be followed up in order to assess the impact of TNA in terms of increased knowledge.

- As also experienced in EUROFLEETS(1), practical on-board training courses are very much appreciated by students and junior scientists, as demonstrated by enthusiastic feed-backs and by the large number of applications received for the courses. This highlights the challenge in expanding this type of activity at European level, with more time, funds and awareness by all European countries and ship operators, in order to train qualified European young researchers. As part of the contribution to the training of future marine scientists, students and technicians involved in the TNA funded cruises will be included in the analysis.

- Networking effort will comprise the survey on the status and renewal plans of European Research fleets. This survey will be finalized and should enable to identify capacities available at regional level. Taking into account the scientific demand, this will contribute to better determine in which maritime basins collaboration and coordination should be further developed. Furthermore, when the scheduling tool under development in the project will be operational, beneficiaries will be encouraged to use it since it can be a relevant tool facilitating cooperation between operators of Research Vessels (RVs) operated in the same geographical areas.
- The work done on the Regional virtual fleet concept will continue, it will pave the way towards collaboration schemes aiming enhance coordination at regional level and increase future transnational use of marine infrastructures;
- The emblematic pioneering group on Polar RVs (PRVs) will finalize its analysis of current and future European demand for PRVs and foreseeable gaps in the fleet capacity. It will make use of the exhaustive analysis made so far to build up and establish a strategic vision for Polar fleets.

- As part of the Joint Research Activities, generic RV designs developed under the project will be finalized and will represent a solid basis for research ship operators involved in the renewal or in the building of a new RV. Designs and proposed innovative technologies, together with the recommendations made by the Project in terms of noise and vibration reduction, bubble sweep down avoidance and work deck arrangements, will contribute to more coherent and interoperable European Regional RVs (RRVs). To foster industrial partnerships, special attention will be paid to open dialogue with ship designers and ship yards by presenting project’s results on RRV designs. In that sense a workshop at the 2016 International Research Ship Operators (IRSO) meeting will be organized.

Referring to software and tools, most efforts will be focused on “Sensor Web Enablement” for potential transfer to industry and on final developments in the Eurofleets Automatic Reporting System (EARS). Promotion of the tool and its main functionalities will be ensured in a dedicated workshop, in order to facilitate its deployment on board several RVs.

During the last year of the project, the innovative developments for Hybrid and Autonomous Underwater Systems will be mainly dedicated to joint experiments and integration on partner’s platforms, so demonstrating the strong synergy in the working group.

Finally, the Project will continue to be active in communication and dissemination of available results using the Project website, e-newsletters and participation to workshops and conferences. The Project website will be updated in order to promote the project’s outcomes in a more “result-oriented” approach.

* Potential impacts

As a continuation of EUROFLEETS(1), EUROFLEETS2 aims at bringing together existing European research fleet owners and operators, including the Polar Research fleets community, to enhance their coordination and promote the cost effective use of their facilities. Impacts of EUROFLEETS2 results are and will remain consequently diverse and cover various fields involving research fleets owners and operators, as the scientific user community.

In complement to the European Research Vessel Operators (ERVO) forum and Ocean Facilities Exchange Group (OFEG), the EUROFLEETS2 Fleet Evolution Group (FEG) contributes to consolidate the links between European RV operators and owners.

EUROFLEETS2 serves economic challenges linked to the maritime and marine sectors by providing sustainable access to cost efficient RVs and equipment able to accelerate the access to new knowledge and innovation. EUROFLEETS2 impact on European competitiveness could be significant, especially on a long-term scale as typical infrastructure projects.

Trans National Access (TNA) calls have generated an impressive partnership (gathering more than 180 marine institutions or universities from 39 European and international countries), so demonstrating that such a Trans National Access strongly fosters scientific exchange at both European and international levels. EUROFLEETS2 creates synergies between member states to exchange experience and capabilities, and especially to allow young researchers and scientists from less or non-equipped countries to get access to RVs and so to gain experience in marine research. This contributes to strengthen the scientific excellence of marine research in Europe and constitutes some significant steps for the creation of an efficient infrastructure by implementing an integrated access to it.

Through the organization of TNA calls per geographical regions, the EUROFLEETS2 TNA also highlights relevant ways to optimize the use of European research fleets (two scientific proposals merged on board the same RV and one cruise jointly carried out with another cruise funded by a US program, allowing optimal use of ship-time and more efficient operations at sea).

Regarding the EUROFLEETS2 Joint Research Activity (JRA) on software and tools, EUROFLEETS2 contributes to harmonize and standardize the workflow from on-board data acquisition to onshore storage by data centers, seeking synergy with existing international and European initiatives and therefore participating in the implementation of the integrated European Maritime Policy.

In the field of Hybrid and Autonomous Underwater Systems, the increasing integration of sensor technology, data processing and vehicle control requires a strong commitment to technical R&D in ocean research institutions. In this respect, innovative methods developed in the Project and in particular based on optical 3D dynamic positioning, target tracking and terrain following, will increase the productivity of operations at sea through higher control of vehicle path. 3D reconstructions methods and developed tools capable to process huge data sets offer the perspective of novel innovation services. Collaborative work between involved partners allows sharing of R&D risks and costs, and synergy generated through joint integration and experiments opens new collaboration possibilities for the future.

With the development of common tools and methodologies, EUROFLEETS2 is contributing to an enhanced inter-operability within European research fleets. Furthermore, thanks to the ongoing preparation of generic Regional RVs designs, EUROFLEETS2 will demonstrate how new Regional RVs could be more innovative, interoperable and cost effective.

As societal impact, EUROFLEETS2 is also making a significant effort to improve access to resources and skills by training the new generation of marine researchers. This contributes to both raise interest in scientific careers and promote their development.

A lot of these anticipated impacts will take place before the end of the EUROFLEETS2 project: all Project beneficiaries are working hard to be able in 2017 to fully demonstrate a majority of them.

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