The oceans account for about ~3/4 of the Earth's surface and produce about 1/2 of the oxygen that we breathe. The oceans are also important because they provide protein for human consumption through wild and farmed fisheries, they have a strong control on weather and climate, and they influence our health and well-being. A national infrastructure called NorSOOP (Norwegian Ships of Opportunity program) that uses ships of opportunity, such as container ships, ferries, and cruise ships, will be established by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), Institute for Marine Research (IMR), Akvaplan-niva (Apn), and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET Norway). The objective of NorSOOP is to support oceanic and atmospheric research and observations, and to help find ways to detect and manage human impacts on the ocean. NorSOOP will have ships that operate regularly in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea (including coastal Norway and fjords), and the Barents Sea in the Arctic. The ships will be outfitted with state-of-the-art environmental sensors and samplers to measure physical, chemical, and biological processes in Norwegian waters. Some of the ships will also have lab space available for advanced tasks and experiments. In the first two years of NorSOOP, we have upgraded two existing ships, acquired a pool of novel marine and atmospheric sensor instrumentation for use on ships, and implemented a new ship of opportunity to be operated between Denmark and Faeroe Island/Iceland.
The Norwegian Ships of Opportunity Program (NorSOOP) infrastructure proposes to establish, organize, and upgrade autonomous environmental sensors and sampling devices on ships of opportunity (e.g., ferry lines, container ships, etc.), or ships that voluntarily host scientific equipment and activities. The infrastructure will be used to address present day and future ecological and environmental basic and applied research questions in Norwegian marine and atmospheric systems of high socioeconomic importance. Unlike traditional observation techniques, ships of opportunity provide access to and support observations and research that are rich in terms of spatial and temporal resolution and unmatched in terms of spatial and temporal coverage. The research infrastructure is therefore relevant for a wide range of Users and Stakeholders that include ocean and atmospheric researchers (national and international communities), aquaculture and maritime industries, and governmental and environmental agencies.
The NorSOOP research infrastructure will involve: a) Ship infrastructure: an organized network of 4 ships of opportunity already in operation, 3 new ships of opportunity in regions with poor coverage, and a portable system for 'ad hoc' use on fishing fleets, research vessels, and autonomous unmanned vehicles; b) Ocean sensor/equipment package and support commonly referred to as a "FerryBox" system, and advanced biological and chemical sensors and equipment that can be added in a plug-and-play manner; this package also includes other more specialized resources such as shipboard laboratory facilities; c) Atmospheric and meteorological sensor/equipment package and support, and advanced sensors for studying ocean-atmosphere interactions that can be easily interfaced; and d) A project management module to ensure smooth operations that will minimize risk, maximize User and Stakeholder access, and foster cooperation between industry, researchers, and decision makers.