Colombia Debuts Scientific Research Ship
By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo March 10, 2017The incorporation of the ARC Roncador vessel into the Colombian Navy’s Caribbean Fleet marks the initial implementation of an infrastructure plan that the General Maritime Directorate (DIMAR, per its Spanish acronym) has had in the works since 2014; a plan that included overhauling and modernizing the Colombian Navy’s scientific research vessels. The ARC Roncador, Colombia’s most modern multipurpose hydrographic vessel, is in service performing scientific research for the Colombian Navy. The ship, named after an island in the San Andrés y Providencia archipelago, “is outfitted with state-of-the-art scientific research equipment for oceanography, hydrography, and marine geology, making it the first Colombian ship with dynamic positioning,” according to a Colombian Navy press release. The vessel also has complementary capabilities for search and rescue, ship and naval equipment salvage, humanitarian aid transport, underwater operations, and the study of species. It can also serve as a platform for launching Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). “This ship was developed in line with our need to begin upgrading DIMAR’s fleet of research vessels. To do so, technical specifications were made to meet what DIMAR really needs until 2030, which is the strategic development plan according to the vision of our directorate,” Commander Jorge Enrique Urocoechea Pérez told Diálogo. He has captained the ship since November 21, 2016. Its predecessor lies at the bottom of the sea The ARC Roncador was added to the Navy’s Caribbean Fleet to replace the ARC Quindío, a ship that served the Colombian Navy for 51 years as a research vessel on important projects. That veteran vessel is now an artificial reef, following its controlled sinking in 2013. “ARC Quindío was decommissioned, a ceremony was held, and it was sunk at Ciénaga de los Vásquez under contract with a commercial firm that also sank a cement ship in the form of a paper boat, as well as some fiberglass powerboats, in order to create a coral reef. They are at [a depth of] around 18 to 20 meters and they serve to give open water divers — which is level one scuba diving — an opportunity to visit this underwater attraction,” Cmdr. Uricoechea added. ARC Roncador’s duties In ARC Roncador’s first operation, its machinery and equipment were put to the test. A second operation has the goal of “a deployment to the islands of the San Andrés y Providencia archipelago to do a bathymetric survey that consists of exploring the ocean depths and the geo forms that make up that island chain, in order to decode its secrets using our large multibeam bathymetric survey instruments, which are state of the art,” Commander Hermann León, director of the National Geographic Service for the Caribbean Oceanographic and Geographic Research Center, told Diálogo. Cmdr. León was on the team with DIMAR and its Maritime Development sub-directorate during the first phases of the ship’s design and acquisition. “We will be able to make out details on the ocean floor with a maximum resolution up to a depth of 4,000 meters, meaning that the seabed geography along Colombia’s continental plate will be seen in greater detail than ever before,” he added. Using ARC Roncador’s unique capabilities, “we will be able to send down devices to sample the water at the bottom of the ocean to a depth of 4,000 meters. If filming is needed, we can send ROVs and reveal the ocean’s secrets through video images and photography. And we can deploy scientific equipment on board, which can do on-site analysis and reveal the samples we’re studying,” Cmdr. León detailed. The ship will also participate “in a series of missions that are going to be carried out this year with various research centers, the highlight being the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve project, which is an expedition to each of the islands that will be done during the month of September, near Isla de Serranilla.” The ship will also continue providing support to the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, in its search for ancient artifacts in Colombia’s Caribbean waters, such as the discovery of the galleon San José, that are part of the nation’s cultural heritage. Thus, ARC Roncador is following DIMAR’s guidelines for supporting the enhancement of Colombia’s maritime development and security.