Featured News JCU celebrates a boat as old as the university itself

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Thu, 1 Jan 2015

JCU celebrates a boat as old as the university itself

A 40 year-old research vessel that has been instrumental in establishing JCU as a world-class centre for marine research has had a makeover and is being re-launched this week.

First published April 17, 2013

A 40 year-old research vessel that has been instrumental in establishing James Cook University as a world-class centre for marine research has had a makeover and is being re-launched this week.

The transformed RV James Kirby is being unveiled tomorrow (April 18) at JCU’s dedicated berth in South Townsville.

JCU is the only university in Australia that has a research vessel of the size and capability of the RV (Research Vessel) James Kirby, for which funding has been assisted throughout the decades by the James N Kirby Foundation.

The Foundation is a private fund that was established by renowned philanthropist, the late Sir James Kirby, in 1967. Since its inception, the Foundation has donated nearly $13 million across a broad range of charities and continues to distribute approximately $1 million in grants each year.

Several relatives of Sir James will travel to Townsville for the re-launch, including son, and former chair of the Foundation, Raymond Kirby and his wife Deidre and current Vice-Chairman and grandson Michael Kirby and his wife Christine.

JCU postgraduate students and staff who still regularly use the boat will also attend the re-launch.

JCU’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding will attend, as well as and a number of Port of Townsville representatives.

Head of JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology, Professor Mike Kingsford, said the RV James Kirby had a long and special relationship for many at JCU.

“This vessel has a very long history with JCU and we are incredibly fortunate to have family members of the original donor, Sir James Kirby, attending today,” Professor Kingsford said.

“We are very grateful to Sir James for his lasting legacy and for all those who continue to contribute to the fund.”

Mr Ralph Botting, Manager of the Vessel & Marine Operations for the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at JCU, said the RV James Kirby had had a very long and interesting history with JCU, along with special relationships for many at JCU.

“The initial cost for the construction of the vessel was $60,500. The bulk was provided by the Australian Universities Commission, along with a few other smaller grants, including pharmaceutical company F. Hoffman La Roche which contributed $10,000,” he said.

“The James N Kirby Foundation contributed another $25,000 to enable the fit-out and purchase of the vessel’s special equipment and Navigational instrumentation”.

“This of course was a substantial contribution in view of the initial overall cost. Over the years a few smaller grants have been also donated by the James Kirby Foundation.”

Mr Botting said the vessel had had a number of substantial modifications over the years, however, the current upgrade was enabled by another grant from the James N Kirby Foundation ($95,000 over 2 years), which allowed for:

· A refit of the vessels galley and dry lab areas

· Replacement of the internal air-conditioning

· Additional ballast fitted to the keel, to further improve the vessel stability

· Improved safety features

· Integrated fire warning system

· Engine room fire protection

· Raised railings around rear deck, and

· Water-tight doors fitted to living areas

The upgrades will allow the vessel to comply with the current more stringent safety regulations, set by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. They will also allow the vessel to obtain a level 2C survey, increasing opportunities and usage by other research organisations such as AIMS, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, furthering research output in the tropics.

Mr Botting said the vessel was delivered to the University on August 19, 1972, and handed over to the then-Vice-Chancellor Dr Ken Back in a brief ceremony a few days later on August 22. The event was attended by representatives of the University, Townsville Harbour Board and the Townsville City Council.

“Initially it was intended to be used to investigate incidence of the Crown of Thorns starfish on the reefs off Townsville,” he said.

“The vessel’s versatility allowed for it to handle a diverse range of activities, such as trawling, dive trips, deployment of oceanographic and hydrographic instruments, seismic work drilling and vibra-coring. It was expected to be used by University researchers for around 150-200 days a year.”

Mr Botting said the vessel has since had a long and proud history of research along the length of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Papua New Guinea.

Demand for the vessel continued to grow and it currently stood at around 150 days a year on the water, he said.

Event: Re-launch of the JCU Research Vessel James Kirby

Date: Thursday April 18

Time: 10-11am

Location: The RV James Kirby berth, 2 Ross St Wharf, South Townsville (map is attached)

There will be opportunities for media to interview students and staff who use the vessel and also the representatives of the James N Kirby Foundation, as well as walk-through the refurbished vessel after the event at approximately 11am.

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175