The Great Lakes that border the United States’ northeast corner and Canada are the largest collection of freshwater lakes on Earth and hold 21% of the world’s surface fresh water. Protecting the delicate ecological balance in Lakes Superior, Ontario, Michigan, Huron and Erie is the job of the United States Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey Center (USGS) and its Great Lakes Science Center.
Invasive species such as the Asian carp threaten the health and biodiversity of the Great Lakes. This species can severely deplete the food supply of any waterway they inhabit by feeding on the plankton essential to sustaining native fish populations. In the decades since their arrival, Asian carp have been moving slowly towards the Great Lakes, where they might threaten a $7 billion fishing industry and substantial tourist revenue.
If the unwelcome fish do arrive, the researchers at the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC, Ann Arbor, Michigan) will be among the first to detect their presence. In fact, although photos of Asian carp schools have attracted a lot of media attention lately, GLSC has quietly played a vital role in protecting and preserving the Great Lakes’ ecosystem and biodiversity for almost a century. It’s a mission as broad and deep as the Lakes themselves; accomplishing it is expected to get a bit easier soon, thanks to two new mtu—powered high-speed research vessels, the Kaho and the Muskie.
Kaho and Muskie, like the three other USGS vessels working on the Great Lakes, are multipurpose vessels built for their primary mission to collect, analyze, monitor and communicate critical information about fishery, aquatic and coastal resources. The boats are equipped with wet laboratories and sophisticated sampling, fish detection and analysis gear.
Christened in 2011, R/V Kaho and R/V Muskie were purchased by the USGS for the GLSC at a combined cost of $8.2 million, replacing two smaller, older vessels of the same names that were operating in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, respectively.
R/Vs Kaho and Muskie will continue to perform the important scientific research work of their predecessors. Studies conducted aboard the old Kaho documented the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, and was also used to collect fish and environmental samples for a wide spectrum of studies, including the Great Lakes Fish Contaminants Monitoring Program in cooperation with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. R/V Muskie’s predecessor was the primary USGS research platform on Lake Erie, providing scientific information relevant to the restoration, enhancement, management and protection of fishery resources in Lake Erie since 1960.
At the Muskie’s commissioning ceremony, GLSC Director Russell Strach commented, “The R/V Muskie and R/V Kaho will provide safe and reliable platforms for scientists, and are equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation to improve our understanding of deep-water ecosystems and fishes in Lakes Ontario and Erie.”
A team effort
The new boats are designed by Murray & Associates and built in Cleveland, Ohio by Great Lakes Shipyard under construction supervision by Alion Science and Technology. Twin mtu 8V 2000 M72 Tier 2 engines rated at 965 bhp at 2,250 rpm provide the power. According to Don Barnhart, who heads up OEM application support at mtu distributor W.W.Williams (Cleveland, Ohio), Kaho and Muskie represent several USGS firsts. “USGS already uses mtu engines to power other research vessels, but these are the first mtu Series 2000s in their fleet, and the first to be installed by Great Lakes Shipyard. Kaho and Muskie are also the first aluminum boats to be built by Great Lakes,” he says.
Barnhart credits a team effort between mtu, W.W.Williams and the shipyard for this latest engine sale to USGS, explaining, “Pat McElmeel, our former OEM sales manager and Chris Peifer, Great Lakes Shipyard’s assistant V.P., engineering and project administration, worked out the engine specification and approvals required to get the project off and running. When Pat retired last June, I worked with Chris and his crew through the engine installations and sea trials. Ryan Kamphuis, mtu senior marine sales engineer, assisted us throughout the project.”
mtu power at sea
The Series 2000 engines were ideal for the 70 ft. long, 18 ft. beam aluminum hulls, which can hit 17 knots—fast for vessels in this class. Each ship’s propulsion and power plant systems are designed for quiet operation. Twin propellers, a bow thruster, and hydraulic anchor winch provide a variety of options for stationary sampling.
Carrying six crewmembers at sea for up to five days, space aboard the research vessels is at a premium—another reason mtu was the engine of choice. “The mtu engines were selected for their size relative to horsepower, fuel economy and low engine noise level. The compact 8V configuration was perfect for the vessels’ engine rooms, which were designed to be as small as possible to maximize room for the crew and equipment,” Barnhart explains.
Thanks to mtu’s legendary engineering standards, the Series 2000 offers another advantage: lower maintenance costs. And if anything does happen, W.W.Williams is always ready to lend a hand. With experience as an mtu engine supplier to USGS vessels, W.W.Williams provides proven engine support, parts and service. Along with invaluable peace of mind.
Barnhart says the project went smoothly and helped build a very productive working relationship between W.W.Williams, mtu and Great Lakes Shipyard. “Working together was a very professional and pleasant experience. With Great Lakes’ rapid growth, we look forward to having the opportunity to work together on future projects,” he says.