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National Deep Submergence Facility Use by Non-Supporting Agencies

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Policy Information
  • Issue Date: June 26, 2006
  • Primary Contact: Flick, Larry
  • Senior Administration: Vice President of Marine Facilities & Operations
  • Responsible Office: Marine Operations
Policy Statement
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) operates the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF) assets as a National Facility within the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory Systems (UNOLS). The DSV Alvin, Jason, Argo, and the DSL-120 are assets within this facility. Requirements for requesting use of these assets and the process of approval, the terms and conditions that govern the use of the assets, and an explanation of the provisional rate structure are explained in this policy.

Reason for Policy
A policy for use of the NDSF assets must be established to ensure that use of the assets meets the requirements of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) established by the supporting agencies (NSF, ONR, and NOAA). The policy ensures that all users are treated the same when determining the number of charge days required to support the number of operational days that may be requested to meet a specific project’s objectives. It is important that all potential users are aware of the costs associated with the use of the NDSF assets to avoid scheduling of cruises that are subsequently canceled due to unexpected costs. Revising schedules for both the NDSF assets and support ships is both complicated and costly.

Policy Information
Policy Statement
Reason for Policy
Who Should Be Familiar With This Policy
Related Documents
Definitions & Responsibilities
   NDSF Assets
   Supporting Agencies
   Non-Supporting Agency
   Charter Agreement
   Support Vessel Owner
   Operating Institution
   Projected Day Rate
   Provisional Day Rate
   Final Day Rate
   Operating Day
   Contingency Cost
   Hull Insurance
   Bare Boat Charter
   Determine Feasibility
   Determine if there is time on the schedule
   Get VP approval
   Get Agency approval
   Schedule operation
   Request for proposal
   Submit proposal
   Approve operation
   Invoice for use
   Send final invoice

Who Should Be Familiar With This Policy
  • President and Director
  • Executive Vice President
  • Vice Presidents
  • Director of Communications
  • Principal Investigators
  • Department/Center Administrators
  • Department Administrative Professionals
  • Controller
  • Manager of Government Relations
  • Manager of Grants and Contracts Services
  • Development Directors
  • Institute or Center Directors
  • Deep Submergence Advisory Committee (DSAC)
  • Ship Operations Manager
  • Marine Operations Committee
  • Marine Operations Coordinator
  • Operational Science Services Manager
  • Chief Scientist for Deep Submergence
  • Submersible Operations Coordinator
  • ROV Group Manager
  • ROV Operations Manager
  • Marine Operations Administrator

Related Documents
Institution Policies
Other Documents
Fee Policy NDSF contact list
  NDSF Vehicle site
  NDSF Archiving Policy
  UNOLS/NDSF Vehicle Request Form


If you have questions about specific issues or need assistance with the interpretation of this policy, contact:

VP for Marine Facilities & Operations
Marine Operations Administrator
Marine Operations Coordinator
Operational Science Services Manager (for Alvin)
ROV Group Manager
ROV Operations Manager

Definitions & Responsibilities
These definitions apply to these terms as they are used in this policy.

NDSF National Deep Submergence Facility
NDSF Assets DSV Alvin, Jason/Medea, Argo, DSL-120
Supporting Agencies NSF, NOAA, and the ONR
Non-Supporting Agency Any agency other then NSF, NOAA, and the ONR
Charter Agreement Document signed by the owner of the vessel and WHOI spelling out the requirements for operating the vessel.
Support Vessel Owner R/V Atlantis
Operating Institution Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for R/V Atlantis.
UNOLS University-National Oceanographic Laboratory Systems
Projected Day Rate Total estimated facility costs divided by planned operating days
Provisional Day Rate A projected day rate proposed to potential users
Final Day Rate The actual daily rate to be charged to users based on the realized cost and the number of operating days charged. The final rate is determined following the close of books for the operating year.
Operating Day A calendar day when the ship/vehicles are working incident to the scientific mission. May include port days and transit days as well as science days at sea.
Contingency Cost A potential cost that could be invoiced should the final rate be greater than the provisional rate quoted.
Hull Insurance Insurance which may be required by the support ship owners and operator when the ship is used for non-federally funded programs.
Bare Boat Charter An arrangement for the hiring of a boat, whereby no crew or provisions are included.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is encouraged by the NDSF supporting agencies to fill out the NDSF schedules with other users. These users may be from other federal agencies, institutions, private sector and foreign nations. They may be accommodated with approval of the supporting agencies. Such additional use must not interfere with the scientific programs scheduled by NOAA, ONR, or NSF. Use by non-scientific groups not directly funded by NSF, NOAA or ONR must be in the interest of furthering science goals, e.g. technical demonstrations, education or environmental monitoring. Objection by any one supporting agency is sufficient to decline a non-science user.

Use Requirements

  • The asset has been requested using the UNOLS/NDSF Vehicle Request Form.
  • The asset manager must agree that the vehicle can perform the required task.
  • There is time available on the schedules of the vehicle and support vessel.
  • Approval of the support vessel operator is obtained.
  • Approval of the Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations is obtained.
  • Approval of the supporting agencies (NSF, NOAA, and ONR) is obtained.

Terms of Use

  • The costs charged to non-supporting agencies can not be less than the costs charged to supporting agencies for the same service.
  • The user must agree to the provisional rate terms.
  • The user must agree to pay applicable fee as defined by the WHOI fee policy.
  • The user must agree to pay applicable hull insurance when required by the charter agreement in place between the support vessel owner and operating institution. Contact the operating institution of the vessel to be used for the requirements of their charter agreement.
  • The user must agree, under certain circumstances, to pay a non-refundable deposit. The requirement for this deposit is based on the risk of incurring costs that will be unrecoverable if planned usage does not materialize.
  • User is required to ensure all pertinent permits are secured.
  • The user must provide the Marine Operations Coordinator a single point-of-contact for the coordination of logistics for all parties to participate in the cruise.
  • A purchase order agreeing to the above terms must be in place two months prior to the onset of mobilization for the operations.
  • The purchase order will be for a not-to-exceed amount for the maximum amount that could be invoiced to the user. This amount may include a contingency amount no greater than 15% of the provisional cost.
  • Operation of the NDSF assets is done on a best effort basis. Lost scientific station time at sea due to weather, scientific equipment failure, ship’s equipment failures, or other NDSF system failures, are chargeable days and will not effect the number of charge days agreed to prior to the beginning of the operation.
  • Less than desired survey results also will not affect the number of agreed charge days.
  • Unless specifically exempted by the approval of the VP for Marine Facilities and Operations, all data collected by NDSF vehicles will be available to any interested investigator in accordance with the NSF Ocean Science Division data policy.
  • Any exception to the above terms must be approved by the Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations along with the Executive Vice President and/or Director for Research.

Provisional Rate Terms

The rates shown in the budget for WHOI ship, shipboard technician costs, and submersible costs are projected and provisional because WHOI operates these groups as cost centers and allocates the costs to user projects at a provisional rate subject to adjustment to the actual rate at the end of the calendar year. The final daily rate is derived from the total costs divided by the operating days during the 12-month calendar year period.

An operating day is a calendar day when the NDFS vehicles are working incident to the scientific mission. Operating days can be at sea or in port during mobilization and demobilization. The number of mobilization and demobilization days can vary from cruise to cruise and should be discussed with the asset manager. A fraction of a day is a whole day.

The number of operating days to be charged to each agency for a cruise funded by multiple funding sources is based on a percentage of the number of dives per agency to the total number of operating days. The number of dives for an individual agency is divided by the total number of dives to determine a percentage of total operating days to be allocated to the individual agencies. The resulting percentage is then multiplied by the total charge days to determine the breakdown of days to be charged.

Potential Rate Increase: Should WHOI’s income derived from the supporting projects be less than that estimated for establishing the projected rates, and/or the costs of operating the ship and shipboard technician groups during the calendar year are increased thereby increasing the projected rates, WHOI shall be compensated at the end of the calendar year for the increased rates. However, any increase shall not exceed fifteen percent (15%) of the per diem rate quoted as the provisional rate. WHOI shall invoice for any increased rate adjustment within three (3) months after the end of the calendar year.

Potential Rate Decrease: Should WHOI’s income derived from the supporting projects be greater than that estimated for establishing the projected rates, and/or the costs of operating the ship and shipboard technician groups during the calendar year are less than estimated in establishing the daily rate, thereby decreasing the projected rates, WHOI shall reimburse for the decreased rate. Reimbursement by WHOI of the accrual of reduced rates shall be made within three (3) months after the end of the calendar year.

Fixed Rate Option: With the approval of the Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations, a user, federal or otherwise, who does not want to wait for the finalization of the rates, may negotiate a premium in excess of the current provisional day rate thereby fixing the rate.

Contingency Costs: A “not to exceed” purchase order should be issued for the provisional rate plus a 15% contingency amount, plus the applicable % of fixed fee (applied to costs only) before the cruise. This would be the maximum amount WHOI will invoice for the operations. The final invoice from WHOI will be the final rate times the number of days, plus the fixed fee quoted. The final rate will not be more than 15% greater than the proposed provisional rate. The user will be reimbursed for any payments received by WHOI that exceed the final actual rate charged.

Hull Insurance: Hull insurance for the support ship may be required for the period of the project. Contact the operator of the support ship for specifics. The bare boat charter agreements with the Navy for R/V Atlantis and R/V Knorr and the charter party agreement with NSF for R/V Oceanus, operated by WHOI, require that hull insurance be paid by non-federal agencies chartering the vessels.

Non-refundable Deposit: A non-refundable 15% deposit may be required to offset any out of pocket expenses incurred to prepare for an upcoming operation that is canceled without enough lead time to avoid the upfront expenses. The need for the deposit will be determined by the asset manager with approval of the Vice President for Marine Operations and Facilities.

Any exception to the normal provisional rate terms must be approved by the Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations along with the Executive Vice President and/or Director for Research.

Determine Feasibility Potential users contact the asset manager to determine if the NDSF assets will work for the desired tasks. Refer to the NDSF contact list for the appropriate contact information.
Determine if there is time on the schedule Potential users contact both the person responsible for scheduling the asset and the person responsible for scheduling the support vessel to see if the project can be scheduled.
Get VP approval The scheduler for the NDSF assets will obtain approval from the VP for Marine Facilities and Operations.
Get Agency approval Potential users with assistance from the scheduler and asset manager requests approval from NSF, NOAA, and ONR.
Schedule operation The respective scheduler will include the operation in the schedule.
Request for proposal Potential users submit a request for proposal to the asset manager. The asset manager will contact the Marine Operations Administrator to assist with pricing.
Submit proposal The asset manager submits the proposal to the user.
Approve operation Final approval of the asset use will be provided when an award is given to WHOI and approved by WHOI’s grant office.
Invoice for use The user agency will be invoiced for days used the month following the use. More than one invoice may be submitted if the operation spans more than one month.
Send final invoice A final invoice, if necessary, will be submitted to the user agency when the final financial information is known for the year in which the cruise takes place.

A variety of forms may need to be completed in accordance with this policy.

Forms Use
UNOLS Request Form Used for requesting NDSF assets for research project

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Last updated: March 16, 2017

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