CFCC’s ship has come in! College to purchase nationally-known research vessel for marine technology program

The R/V Cape Hatteras

The R/V Cape Hatteras

The ship has finally come in for Cape Fear Community College. After a nearly decade-long search for a new training vessel for the college’s marine technology program, CFCC will acquire the nationally-known research vessel the R/V Cape Hatteras.

Currently located at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC, the 135-foot R/V Cape Hatteras has served as a scientific research vessel for the National Science Foundation for over 30 years.

The R/V Cape Hatteras will replace the college’s current training vessel, the R/V Dan Moore, which is nearly 50 years old and is well past its serviceable life for a ship of its kind.

“The R/V Cape Hatteras is an ideal ship for our marine technology program. It’s an opportunity we simply couldn’t pass up,” said CFCC President Dr. Ted Spring.

“The proven capabilities of this vessel will ensure that the college can continue to provide the unique offshore training experience that consistently helps place graduates in jobs for the state’s marine industry,” Dr. Spring said.

Owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by Duke University, the R/V Cape Hatteras has served in hundreds of research missions for scientists from all over the world.

Finding a suitable ship to replace the R/V Dan Moore has been a major CFCC priority for nearly a decade, so when the R/V Cape Hatteras became available in early February, college officials acted quickly to gather the resources and make an offer.

The college negotiated to purchase the R/V Cape Hatteras for $900,000, considerably less than the original $1.8 million asking price. Funds came from the college’s state equipment funds, institutional funds and private donations from the CFCC Foundation.

“Pulling the finances together on short notice was essential to the effort and I can’t express enough how grateful I am to the CFCC Foundation Board for their support. We couldn’t have done it without them,” Dr. Spring said.

Officials from CFCC and Duke University are expected to officially close on the deal on Tuesday, March 12. After the sale becomes final, the ship will be relocated to CFCC’s dock on the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington. College officials are currently planning a welcoming ceremony so the entire community can take part in the ship’s arrival.

CFCC Marine Technology chair Jason Rogers is excited about the opportunities and capabilities that the new ship will provide, which he said will take the program to the next level.

Built in 1981, the R/V Cape Hatteras is 15 years younger than the venerable R/V Dan Moore, which was built in 1966. At 135 feet, the R/V Cape Hatteras is 50 feet longer than the 85-foot R/V Dan Moore. In rough seas, that can make a big difference to the safety of those on board. With a larger main deck and twice the lab space, the Cape Hatteras provides more room for students to work and maneuver.

“Working at sea is inherently dangerous. Learning to work safely is just as important as getting the job done. The only way to learn how to adapt to working and living on the ocean is to experience it. You can’t learn those skills in a classroom or simulate the conditions on the river. Students need to overcome the challenges of the marine environment if they are going to be successful,” Rogers said.

The larger ship will also offer the college more flexibility in scheduling training voyages, which are in high demand by students who want to complete their degree in two years.

CFCC officials say that despite being 31 years old, the R/V Cape Hatteras has been well maintained and underwent a complete refit in 2003. Rogers estimates that the college will be able to use the ship for at least another decade or more.

“Duke has taken excellent care of the ship. It’s in great condition,” Rogers said.

As a bonus, the ship comes loaded with an assortment of state-of-the-art scientific gear estimated at nearly $1 million. The gear is the same type of equipment that students will use when they graduate so they’ll get experience using industry standard instruments and tools.

Rogers added that since the R/V Cape Hatteras has a great reputation in the marine science industry, it will increase the program’s visibility to employers.

There are 140 students currently enrolled in the program. The most recent job placement study indicated that 94% of graduates found jobs after graduation.

Graduates of CFCC’s marine tech program are regularly recruited by companies not only in the state, but from all over the country. Rogers said that having the R/V Cape Hatteras on a resume will be an added boost for students interviewing for jobs within the marine industry.

He explained that the program trains workers that support a wide variety of marine industries which play a critical role in the state’s economy. CFCC graduates find work in a broad range of jobs which impact vital industries that include shipping, commercial fishing regulation, water quality, offshore energy exploration and coastal tourism.

“Employers have told us over and over that our graduates get jobs because of the offshore training experience they learn during the two years in the program,” Rogers said.

With the addition of the R/V Cape Hatteras, CFCC’s marine technology program will continue to fill a unique job training role for North Carolina and marine-related industries all over the country.