NSF revises solicitation for $2B research vessel contract

The research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer cruises by an iceberg near Antarctica.

The research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer cruises by an iceberg near Antarctica. Gettyimages.com/VichoT

The National Science Foundation wants a science and tech-laden ship that can sail for 40 years.

The National Science Foundation has revised the solicitation for its potential $2 billion contract to acquire a new vessel for research activities in Antarctica.

The amended solution was driven by questions received to a draft request for proposals released last year.

NSF wants to replace the aging Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, a 30-year-old icebreaker.

The solicitation is for the design and build phase of the vessel, which could take several years. The contract will have plenty of technology aspects including computerized maintenance systems, systems engineering and modeling.

The ship also will have requirements for science systems for research work, as well as an onboard computer lab.

NSF expects the new ship to sail for 40 years.

Proposals are due April 1.

The Palmer is one of two research vessels the NSF has in Antarctica. The need to begin the replacement process was identified nearly 10 years ago, according to solicitation documents.

The solicitation describes a design phase of between three and five years, followed by a construction phase ranging from four-to-10 years. The operations phase would last between 20 and 40 years.

Evaluation criteria for picking the winner include prior experience, past performance, total project cost assessment, oral proposals and small business participation.

Cost is also a criteria, but the non-price factors combined are more important than cost.