Ships of opportuny programme

Monitoring of coastal waters and shelf seas is normally carried out
by research vessels on sampling cruises.

Collecting oceanography data from ferries

Automatic systems on buoys are also used and these allow routine measurement of standard oceanographic parameters such as temperature, salinity, currents, and in some cases turbidity, oxygen, and chlorophyll fluorescence. Unfortunately both methods only sample limited areas, are expensive to operate, and automatic systems in particular are very susceptible to fouling by marine organisms.

A cheap and reliable alternative is to use ferries and other "ships of opportunity" to carry the measuring instruments on their regular routes.
Standardised onboard measuring systems on such carriers have several advantages:
• The measuring system can be protected against waves ;
• Biofouling can be more easily prevented (inline sensors); and
• Most importantly, the running costs are reduced.

Within the GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System) and EuroGOOS Framework scientists have started initiatives to develop automatic measuring systems for bio-oceanographic parameters.

German FerryBox project

The German "FerryBox" consists of a fully automated flow-through system with different sensors and automatic analysers. For reliable unmanned operation the system is supervised by a computerised control system which can not only shut itself off in case of very severe errors but can also operate automatic cleaning cycles, for example when the ship is in harbour.

At the moment the FerryBox has sensors/analysers for the following parameters: water temperature, salinity(precision), turbidity, oxygen, pH, chlorophyll fluorescence, nutrients (ammonium, nitrate/nitrite, phosphate, silicate), main algal classes (special analyser to discriminate between different algal classes based on different fluorescence patterns). Data acquisition, storage, and telemetry are coordinated by a high-powered PC.

Data can be transferred to shore and the system can be remotely operated by GSM (mobile phone). Biofouling is prevented by pressure cleaning of the sensors with acidified tap water or under severe conditions (tropics) by chlorination. An obvious problem with any system that relies on water flowing through an inlet in a ship is what happens if it gets blocked with debris. This problem is overcome by the ingenious control system on the FerryBox. As soon as it registers a drop in water flow rate it immediately initiates a pressure back-flushing cycle, which clears the blocked inlet.

EU-Project FerryBox

The EU-funded FerryBox project (2002-2005) aimed to develop this system of observation on routes along European coasts in waters of different character. The project gave the opportunity to compare different systems and different types of seas (enclosed, coastal, shelf, oceanic, oligotrophic, eutrophic). It has also provided data that have allowed to calibrate and check our existing oceanographical models for these sea areas.

Source :


FerryBox Project