HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii at Manoa will welcome a new research vessel, “Imua,” in fall 2023. Imua is part of the $50 million commitment from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg gifted to UH Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology in January of this year. The couple stated, “Hawaii has one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world — and having a deeper understanding of this ecosystem is the key to preserving and protecting it.”

What You Need To Know

  • The new ocean vessel, “Imua,” is part of a $50 million gift from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg

  • Imua’s custom design and advanced research capabilities will provide UH researchers with opportunities for more in-depth and diverse study throughout the Hawaiian Islands

The All American Marine, which specializes in constructing vessels, was awarded the contract to build the 68-foot semi-displacement aluminum catamaran. A team of 12 HIMB researchers and two Coast Guard-certified captains operating the vessel will regularly use Imua to conduct science missions to support the management and conservation of Hawaii’s marine resources.

“We will use Imua to deepen our understanding of Hawaii’s marine ecosystems, inspire and teach the marine scientists of tomorrow, and bring exciting K-12 learning experiences to local communities across the state,” said Chip Fletcher in a news release. Fletcher is the interim dean of UH Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Harnessing a fuel-efficient twin engine with a range from shallow coastal waters out to 150 nautical miles offshore, Imua can support a science crew of eight for up to a week, allowing UH to meet its research goals and enabling researchers access to study marine environments throughout the state.

Its custom design will support diverse science and outreach missions from advanced studies on marine megafauna, pelagic and coastal ecosystem research, and oceanographic surveys, in addition to K-12 learning experiences for up to 20 people.

Imua’s advanced research capabilities will provide researchers the opportunity to study “difficult” wild animals such as sharks and whales, enable monitoring of a broad spectrum of ocean health parameters and exploration of lesser-known habitats.

“This is an exciting opportunity for UH and the Hawaii community because Imua represents a substantial increase in our capacity for marine science research, training and outreach,” said Carl Meyer, UH Manoa assistant researcher at HIMB. “For decades we have lacked a UH vessel that fills the gap between small research vessels and large-ocean-going research ships.”

Sarah Yamanaka covers events, environmental and community news for Spectrum News Hawaii.