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R/V Sikuliaq, the Alaska Region Research Vessel

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The R/V Sikuliaq (pronounced see-KOO-lee-ack), launched in October 2012, is a "next-generation" global class research vessel. The University of Alaska, Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences will operate the ship as part of the U.S. academic research fleet. It is the academic fleet's first global class, ice-capable ship owned by NSF.

Although this 261-foot, general-purpose ship has a hull specifically designed to operate in Arctic sea ice and the open waters surrounding Alaska, it can work effectively throughout the world's oceans. It will support roughly 500 researchers and students annually and spend up to 270 days per year at sea. It is accessible to persons with disabilities. Sikuliaq will allow researchers to work in ice-covered waters not previously accessible on a routine basis, and play an essential role in our understanding of the Arctic Ocean system and how it is changing over time.

The new vessel's name, Sikuliaq, is an Inupiat word meaning "young sea ice." It will be uniquely equipped for operating in ice-covered waters, with a reinforced double hull, two rotating thrusters and scalloped propeller blades enabling it to break through first-year ice up to 2.5 feet thick. The ship will also be outfitted with the latest technology for marine research, including a low underwater noise signature, advanced communications, acoustic sensors and advanced scientific equipment handling systems.

Satellite observations have shown that the perennial ice in the Arctic is thinning at a rate of 9 percent per decade, which is beginning to have major regional and global consequences. Research is urgently needed on topics ranging from climate change, ocean circulation, ecosystem studies and fisheries research to natural hazards and cultural anthropology.

Sikuliaq will depart on its first science mission in early 2014. The ship will be home ported at UAF's Seward Marine Center in Seward, Alaska.

Education & Outreach

R/V Sikuliaq will provide a significantly larger platform for scientists, graduate and undergraduate students to participate in complex multidisciplinary research activities and will enable the training of the next generation of scientists with the latest equipment and technology.

Broadband satellite communications capable of relaying data, including high definition video from tools such as remotely operated vehicles that explore under the ice and the ocean depths, will bring research into the K-12 classroom and to the general public. 

Watch a video of the Sikuliaq launch in October, 2012.


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  • drawing of ARRV
Artist's rendition of the Alaska Region Research Vessel
The Glosten Associates, Inc.