Terms of Reference

The following are the IRSO Terms of Reference as approved at the 2013 meeting:

1. Objectives
IRSO promotes the safe, efficient and environmentally responsible operation of research ships in support of the global marine scientific research community. It does this by providing a forum for managers of ocean research ship fleets to:

  • share professional information and best practice regarding design, management and operation of research ships and associated scientific equipment;
  • explore and develop opportunities for sharing and/or exchanging ship time, personnel, instruments and equipment;
  • benchmark their research ship and associated equipment operations with other comparable operators; and
  • act as a voice to promote the research ship community and provide expert advice to other bodies as required.

2. Background
IRSO first met in London in 1987 as the International Ship Operators Meeting (ISOM) with 17 attendees from 8 different countries. In 2010 it decided to change the title to better reflect the forum’s purpose and membership. In 2013, IRSO has members from 44 different institutes/organisations in 28 different countries, representing over 100 of the world’s leading research ships. IRSO meetings are regularly attended by approximately 50 delegates from the global research ship community.

3. Membership
IRSO membership is open to all research ship operating institutes or national research programmes that are engaged in the collection of data from ships at sea, and follow established protocols for the open publication of their results. New members are formally accepted at the annual IRSO meeting.
Membership is free, however annual meeting attendees contribute towards the host’s costs through a registration fee which is regularly reviewed by delegates, currently agreed to be around €300 (2013).
With the agreement of the IRSO chair, delegates are welcome to nominate industrial representatives, scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders to attend IRSO meetings and/or IRSO organized working groups/workshops. The Chair however retains the right to close competition sensitive sessions to commercial interests.

4. IRSO organization
As an unincorporated association, IRSO has no continuing budget and no official ‘headquarters.’ It is not an advocacy organization, but an opportunity for information exchange among research ship managers. As such, it is an open and member driven group with its officers serving the organisation on a purely voluntary basis with no financial recompense. An IRSO website will be hosted by a delegate, currently Bob Houtman from the National Science Foundation, USA.
The two key officers of IRSO are the Chair and Vice Chair (Chair-Elect), and in principle the aim is to have one role filled by a European and the other by a non-European, although this is waived in exceptional circumstances. The officers will undertake their roles as follows:

Chair – assumes the role automatically having served as Vice-Chair as detailed below. The Chair is responsible for:
• setting the agenda and chairing the annual meeting;
• proposing and overseeing working groups and/or workshops as deemed necessary;
• upkeep of the IRSO website in collaboration with the web-host; and
• acting as the formal IRSO representative to other groups and organizations.

Vice Chair – is elected every two years by simple majority of members attending the annual meeting and serves for two years in this role before automatically stepping up to the role of Chair. The newly elected Vice-Chair will take up their duties immediately after meeting closure during which the election took place, although the previous incumbent will be remain responsible for production of the meeting minutes until these are formally adopted. The Vice-Chair is responsible for:
• recording and production of meeting minutes;
• ensuring that minutes are posted on the IRSO website; and
• maintenance of the membership and contact list.

Outgoing Chair – normally acts in an advisory role to the Chair and Vice-Chair for a period of up to two years after leaving office.
Together with the host of the annual plenary meeting, these three posts act as the core of the IRSO organising committee, although this group is expanded as necessary to include necessary experience.

5. Annual Meeting
As a minimum, IRSO will arrange an annual plenary meeting of up to two and a half days duration in accordance with the outline in Annex 1, although this can be flexible according to the availability of local infrastructure such as research ships, equipment or land-based facilities for tours.
Hosting of the annual IRSO meeting is voluntary and the in principle (non-binding) aim is to alternate between a European and non-European location each year. The meeting host is responsible for all local arrangements, including assisting meeting attendees with local travel arrangements, accommodation etc. as necessary. The host is also encouraged to invite local/national speakers or experts with special relevance to the IRSO group areas of interest; e.g. classification societies, maritime authorities, science groups, policy makers or other stakeholders.
Draft minutes of meeting shall be circulated among meeting participants no later than two calendar months after the meeting. Final draft minutes will be circulated among participants and posted on the IRSO web site no later than four calendar months after the meeting for final approval by delegates at the next meeting.

6. Workshops, ad hoc working groups and study groups
Although the main business of IRSO is conducted during the annual plenary meeting, IRSO conducts some business outside of the meeting, either by means of a workshop or correspondence. Wherever possible, workshops are scheduled alongside the plenary meeting in order to minimise members’ long-haul travel costs. Particular outputs of note from IRSO over recent years have included the Code of Conduct for Marine Scientific Research Vessels, as well as involvement in drafting the 2011 “Marine Scientific Research – A Guide to the Implementation of the Relevant Provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. IRSO operates on the basis of consensus when such documents are developed.
IRSO also ‘parents’ the bi-annual International Marine Technicians (InMarTech) meeting.

7. Relations to other groups and organizations
It is in the interests of IRSO to develop strong links with similar organisations and IRSO extends an open invitation to representatives of these. Where reciprocal arrangements exist, IRSO will nominate a member to attend and act as rapporteur at the IRSO meeting. Whenever circumstances allow, IRSO will explore opportunities for joint meetings or adjacent scheduling with these organisations. IRSO currently has links with the following:
– European Research Vessel Operators (ERVO)
– US Research Vessel Operator Committee (RVOC)
– Ocean Facilities Exchange Group (OFEG)

Annex 1

Annual Plenary Meeting Agenda

Theme 1 – Research Vessel Builds, Modifications and Performance
– New vessels
– Modifications and upgrades
– Fuel management
– Underwater Radiated Noise – URN

Theme 2 – Manning, Safety and Training
– Alcohol and drug policies
– Medical standards and provision
– Safety and security issues

Theme 3 – Scientific Technology
– AUVs and ROVs
– Cables and winches
– Data management and handling

Theme 4 – Legal and Insurance
– Insurance
– Admiralty Law in research vessel operations
– IMO Regulations
– Diplomatic Clearances
– Polar Code and high latitudes
– Environment
– RV Code of Practice
– Vessel Charter

Theme 5 – Cooperation and Outreach
– Eurofleets 2