Keywords : history, project

History of the project

History of the Pourquoi pas? project

In 1985, Ifremer began a fleet renewal scheme, which aimed to rationalise the sea-going resources of the Centre National pour l'Exploitation des Océans (CNEXO) and the Institut Scientifique et Technique des Pêches Maritimes (ISTPM). This scheme meant removing many old or unadaptable ships from the fleet and building new ones: the Atalante (1989), the Europe (1993), the Thalassa (1996). The Suroît was refitted in 1989. The final vessel affected by this renewal scheme is the Nadir. Preliminary dimensioning studies for its replacement, the Navire d'Exploration Profonde (NEP, deep sea exploration ship), began in 1997.

Since 1991, the French navy had been looking to replace the hydrographic ship the Espérance and the oceanographic ship the D'Entrecasteaux. Preliminary analytical work began in 1992 and ended in 1994 with a first draught of the requirements. The Service des Programmes Navals de la DGA (SPN, naval programme department of the French ministry of defence), with the assistance of the French navy and its service hydrographique et océanographique (SHOM, hydrographic and oceanographic department), therefore began preparing the "Bâtiments Hydrographiques et Océanographiques" programme (BHO, hydrographic and oceanographic ships).

Since it a partnership between the French navy and Ifremer seemed to be a possibility for carrying out these two separate schemes, in 1998 the research and defence ministriesasked Ifremer, the French navy and the SPN to review together the renewal of their maritime resources. This review showed that, largely, the requirements of the two organisations could be met with two shared-use ships, benefiting the state through economies of scale, both in terms of investment and operating costs.

In a letter dated July 17 2000, the research and defence ministries agreed to work in partnership for the shared development and use of two new ships, based on cross-subsidisation:

  • The BHO, a military ship, operated by the ministry of defence, with 5% participation by Ifremer.
  • The NEP, a civilian ship, operated by Ifremer, with 45% participation by the ministry of defence.

This partnership is detailed in a ministry of defence-Ifremer acquisition agreement signed on April 12 2001.

The BHO is called "Beautemps-Beaupré" and the NEP "Pourquoi pas?"; two historial names from the fields of hydrography and oceanography.

The Beautemps-Beaupré entered into service in 2003.

A working group called the "ad-hoc group" was set up in May 2001 and confirmed the mission scenarios for the scientific community and the ministry of defence for a large multi-purpose ship:

  • Capable of navigating any ocean.
  • Adapted for launching submersible devices (Victor 6000 and Nautile).
  • Fitted with high-performance multibeam sounders, acoustic sensors, seismic surveying equipment, dragnets, core-samplers (30m) for bathymetry and hydrography missions.
  • Equipped for general surveying of the water column whilst travelling (oceanography): deploying bathysounders, nets, mooring lines, current meters, etc.
  • Capable of accomodating more people than the Atalante (40 scientists and technicians).

The project steering committee first met on September 28 2001 and accepted the project schedule and the conclusions of the groupe ad-hoc. The groupe de suivi de projet (GSP) was set up in early October 2001 and began many meetings with the future users to define their requirements. These were held with five working groups (life onboard, scientific offices, decks, motorisation/acoustic and scientific equipment). This precise explanation of the requirements was ratified by the steering committee during their meeting on December 4 2001 and was the subject of a detailed document that was handed to the Ifremer board of directors in March 2002.

Following invitations for European tenders, on October 16 2002, the project steering committee approved the choice of shipbuilder and of suppliers of the multibeam sounders and the deep-sea winches and the intital configuration of the project. The Ifremer contracts committee and then the Ifremer board of directors approved the deals for building the ship, the multibeam sounders and the deep-sea winches, on December 10 and 12 2002.
The ship was delivred in March 2005, and was put into service during 2005, for the use of SHOM and the scientific community.

Various preliminary designs