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Research Vessel RV Keary

RV Keary surveying near Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Bay in August 2009.


The RV Keary was formally dedicated by Minister Conor Lenihan and Mrs. Barbara Keary on October 6th 2009 at Poolbeg Yacht Club, Dublin. The launch coincided with a celebratory 10th anniversary conference of seabed surveying in Ireland, Seabed 10. According to Minister Lenihan, “in commissioning the new vessel, RV KEARY, we will also see cost effective mapping of our shallowest waters and a valuable addition to our national research capacity”. The RV Keary is owned by the Geological Survey of Ireland and will play an important role in INFOMAR’s commitment to survey the 26 priority bays and 3 priority areas outlined in the programmes strategy.

The vessel is named after Raymond Keary, one of Ireland’s pioneering marine geologists. It is a purpose built, aluminium catamaran designed for the survey of shallow waters, with a draft of only 1.7m. The 15 metre fully-equipped and state of the art hydrographic/geophysical launch will deliver survey data that will meet all required international specifications.

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Raymond Keary (1937 – 2003)

Raymond Keary (1937 – 2003) RIP

Ray Keary is well renowned for his vision and his unwavering determination to initiate exploration and understanding of marine science. Throughout his long career he launched and managed the GSI’s Marine Section and he virtually single-handedly extended the margins of geological research beyond the Irish shoreline. Shortly after his appointment as an Assistant Junior Lecturer in NUI Galway in 1962 he began to concentrate his research activity on the seashore and beyond. He managed to convince his departmental colleagues that marine geology should be introduced to the BSc course there and he himself went on to complete an MSc in Oceanography later in his career. He became remarkably adept at making the best of meagre resources and one of the most striking memories of his time in Galway is the heavy marine sledge containing a microphone that he improvised and dragged behind the college’s research vessel, a 12 metre ketch.

In 1975 Ray moved to GSI where he set up the Marine Section and began orchestrating research cruises on the Lough Beltra and his drive and imagination led him to initiate survey work on the Asgard II as well. With the advent of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea spelling out the need to define Ireland’s boundary, Ray’s oft-stated case for a survey of Ireland’s territorial seabed became ever more pertinent. His 1996 GLORIA survey, in which this long-range mapping device was used to map the deep sedimentary basins around the Porcupine Seabight and the Rockall Trough, showed that GSI could run a big marine Survey. By then the GSI was fully convinced that, as Ray had argued for years, the entire seabed area should be surveyed and a formal proposal was submitted to government. Then, in April 1999 the Government approved a comprehensive survey of the Irish Seabed which cost €32 million. A short time later Ray Keary retired, content that his career dream had finally been realised. He passed away in 2003. Today the survey continues to deliver high quality data and is testament to his outstanding dedication to marine science.

 Ray Keary and his ‘hands on’ approach.

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RV Keary Construction

The vessel contract to build the vessel was awarded to IMAR Tionscail, Galway with the assistance of Maritime Services Ltd. The vessel was designed by Nic De Waal of Teknicraft in New Zealand with the specific brief of a nearshore, shallow water survey platform.

Plans of the RV Keary by Nic De Waal of Teknicraft. (Click for larger image).

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 The vessel was manufactured by Veecraft Marine of Capetown, South Africa between February 2007 and October 2008. The following images show the vessels fabrication;

Ribs of catamaran hulls being fabricated in the Veecraft workshop in South Africa.

Finished catamaran hulls awaiting deck and accommodation structure.

Near complete fabrication of aluminium external structure of RV Keary with bridge under construction.

View from the starboard quarter of RV Keary at the same stage of construction.

 Internal fitting out of galley area.

View of finished dining area, forward of the galley.

View of finished galley.

View of finished bridge.

Initial sea trials in South Africa.

Back deck of RV Keary with A-frame used when performing seabed sampling operations.

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RV Keary
Dublin, Ireland
Call Sign:
EIGO9 (Echo India Golf Oscar Nine)
MMSI Number:
Marine Survey Office P5 License for 12 passengers

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Technical Specifications


Length (OA)                             15.5 m

Length (Hull)                            14.6 m

Beam (moulded)                       5.6 m

Draft                                        2.1 m with equipment deployed

Engines                         Cummins QSC 8.3-500 INT

Rating                                       368 kW/2600 rpm

Speed (90% power)                 22 knots

Fuel                                          2000 litres

Hull Type                                 Asymmetrical catamaran

Construction                             Marine Grade Aluminium

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Navigation and Communication Equipment

POS MV is an inertially-aided Real-Time Kinematic (IARTK) technology developed by Applanix to provide accurate attitude, heading, heave, position, and velocity data, representing the latest in state-of-the-art inertial/GPS technology. In operational terms, the POS MV logs all motion of the RV Keary in space and time, allowing the removal of the vessels motion from the sonar and shallow seismic datasets.

Ultrashort Baseline positioning (USBL) allows instruments operating underwater to be accurately positioned in relation to the vessel. USBL systems calculate position by combining acoustic range and bearing data from a vessel transceiver with attitude, heading and GPS sensor information. This is useful when performing underwater camera work, using towfish instruments or during ROV operations.

VHF radio with GMDSS compliance

GSM integrated Mobile Broadband Internet connection

NAVTEX and Weatherfax receiver

Furuno Radar

Furuno 360 degree search sonar

Vessel’s Furuno echo sounder – as distinct from the retractable survey echo sounder.

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Acoustic Survey Equipment

Kongsberg Simrad EA400 singlebeam echosounder

Kongsberg Simrad EM3002 multibeam echosounder (2009 - 2012)

Kongsberg Simrad Kongsberg EM2040 multibeam echosounder (2013 - present)

Edgetech 3200XS chirp shallow seismic sub bottom profiler

Edgetech side scan sonar FS 4200

GEO Spark 1500 seismic sparker

AML sound velocity profiler

Castaway CTD probe

SV probe

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Seabed Sampling Equipment

Kongsberg Still and Video drop or tow camera

Inuktun crystal cam video camera system

Van Veen grab

Day grab

SeaRay Remotely Operated Vehicle

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Innovations for INFOMAR operations on the RV Keary


(a) The Pod

The pod was designed to accommodate the single beam head, multibeam heads, chirp, USBL transceiver and SV sensor in one housing. The pod is mounted on a hydraulic ram that can raise and lower the instrumentation into and out of the water. Once the pod has been lowered into the survey position, lateral rams lock the pod in place to assure that the system is stable and the instrumentation is in the same position every time the pod is moved.


The main advantages to this system are;

1.                  With the pod down, maximum speed is 10 knots. However, with the pod raised the maximum speed is up to 22 knots. This allows the RV Keary to transit quickly to and from areas of operation with minimum time lost to slow transits. Once onsite, the pod can be quickly lowered into place and survey can begin saving time and money.

2.                  The ability to raise and lower the pod also provides safety for the instrumentation and vessel as the instruments are only in the water during survey operations. This reduces the chances of damaging the instruments in the pod, especially when operating at speeds higher than normal survey speed.


View of pod lowered into the water. Note hydraulic ram running down between support structures. All survey instruments are housed in the submerged pod.


View of extended pod and hydrofoil which allows RV Keary to transit efficiently between survey areas and port.

(b) POS MV

Due to operations being close to the coast, the POS MV data can then be post-processed using rinex data from active stations on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland GPS network or from temporary base stations set up by the INFOMAR team. This eliminates the need to provide an onshore tide gauge infrastructure as tidal height changes can be extracted from the data for the specific area of operation.

(c) 360 degree serach Sonar.

As the RV Keary will be operating in relatively shallow depths, safety of the vessel is a major issue. A combination of lookouts and the forward looking sonar will provide information about the nature and depth of the seabed ahead of the RV Keary that will allow the crew to deal with any potential problems that lie in the survey path of the RV Keary.

(d) Auto Pilot Line Steering

Another development on the RV Keary is the use of online auto pilot steering of survey lines. This means that the vessel will follow a predefined path on the survey plan and will compensate for currents and wind that may affect the course of the vessel. Importantly, this system can be quickly switched to control by the Master when manual control of the vessel is desired. This system improves efficiency as the most effective line plan can be made to maximise the coverage of data for the time used to gather the data. 

 RV Keary beginning another day of operations from Dun Laoghaire marina.

 View of the bow of RV Keary with wave piercer in the centre to minimise the effect of waves on the vessels stability which improves data quality and comfort.

 RV Keary surveying near Dun Laoghaire as part of the INFOMAR survey of Dublin Bay in August 2009.

 RV Keary returning to Dun Laoghaire marina following another successful day of surveying as part of the INFOMAR survey of Dublin Bay in August 2009.

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Drone footage of the RV Keary

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