Peru has made a huge quality leap with its recent procurement of the polar oceanographic ship Carrasco (BOP-171), named in honor of Rear Admiral Eduardo Carrasco, a former director of the Naval Academy and a pioneer of Peruvian hydrography. The ship represents the greatest acquisition of the “Improvement of Peruvian Naval Oceanographic Research Services in the Maritime Domain of Antarctica” project. After 19 months of constant work and training, it was finally assigned to the Navy on March 22nd, and it has become a source of great pride for that institution and for the nation.
Technology at the service of research
“Four officers were placed in charge of supervising the construction - a commander for the operations area, an officer specialized in electronics, one in hydrography, and another in engineering,” Commander Carlos Holguín Valdivia, the ship’s captain, told Diálogo. The results have exceeded all expectations, to the full satisfaction of the entire Navy corps. In scientific terms, the differences are really notable. “Within our territorial waters, we have been working down to a depth of 1,500 meters. The Carrasco is much more powerful in that regard. This ship, within deep-water standards, is considered to be among the five best in the world. We have equipment that can map the sea floor down to 11,000 meters,” he explained.
The BAP Carrasco also offers the huge advantage of having laboratories on board. “Now we have eight laboratories. Before, when you did a test, you had to bring it ashore to study it. But now, you no longer have to go back. We bought equipment and laboratories that don’t exist in Peru,” Cmdr. Holguín added.
Among its other features, the ship is equipped with a helicopter pad and can carry autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that allow it to go beyond its operational range in its research capabilities. “Seven or eight countries in the world have AUVs. The AUV is a submarine whose price hovers around $2.5 million and allows precise and exact data to be gathered. The work that some of the other equipment does, this equipment does by itself.” said First Lieutenant José Sánchez Malpartida, chief of the ship’s Propulsion and Support Division.
In addition to the equipment on board, the Carrasco is advanced in its own handling. “In the propulsion, we have the latest command- and-control system. That affords us freedom on all axes: forward, backward, left, right, and turning. It is a ship that’s designed for the Antarctic — specifically for oceanography — unlike the Humboldt, in which we used to travel before, but that had been adapted,” said 1st Lt. Sánchez.
Increasing interest of the international community
The level and the possibilities that BAP Carrasco offers have prompted various countries to request to come aboard in order to carry out their research and studies. “The Permanent Commission for the South Pacific (CPPS, per its Spanish acronym), which now has its presidency in Ecuador, is on a regional cruise to see the studies done by the four countries [Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru]. The president of CPPS said that with this ship there would no longer be unnecessary costs for the four countries but instead, we will all be able to make contributions and work together on a single cruise,” Cmdr. Holguín explained.
Colombia is one nation that has shown full interest in being part of the upcoming trips to Antarctica. “Since it does not have a scientific ship with this capability, [the Colombians] asked us to make room for them so that they can sail with us. They are interested in going on a binational cruise, sharing expenses, and going to Antarctica together. This ship has everything needed to do work on board and to deploy people to do work on land,” he said.
Notable among the ship’s future projects is an accord with the Geological, Mining, and Metallurgical Institute (INGEMMET, per its Spanish acronym), to conduct studies of the sea floor. All that was needed to draw attention to it was to mention one of the ship’s features. “We have equipment that allows us to see the ocean depths and the lay of the sea floor in 3-D. We told INGEMMET that, and they were impressed,” Cmdr. Holguín enthusiastically recounted. “Now, beyond morphology, they want to do some studies in front of Nazca. This ship can do that. We have equipment that can let you see downward to the bottom of the sea, to see the type of sea, the type of land,” he added.
The ship’s great technological capabilities open up new possibilities and also renewed opportunities. “Before, there were national competitions, and I hope they resume, taking advantage of the Carrasco. Universities would present their best projects. The top three were subsidized, and they went on to do their study in Antarctica. That was the hook for the scientific community. People from the university see our capability and they can travel with us. The idea is to encourage the scientific community and the universities to participate because this is a splendid platform. All of the theory you’ve been taught is right there,” he said.
For all these reasons, commanding this ship is hugely satisfying for Cmdr. Holguín. “Being the first captain of a ship that is considered to be among the best in the world, with this technology, fills you with pride. Obviously for you, and for your family and friends. It’s the best. It’s like winning the lottery,” he concluded.