Ship Time Requests –
What? When? Why? How?
by Michael Prince and Linda Goad
Proper submission of Ship Time Requests is imperative to the successful
and timely conduct of field work associated with a funded research project.
The information below is intended to provide background on the scheduling
process as well as helpful instructions on submitting and monitoring
Ship Time Requests.
Ship Time Request System - the heart of equal access to ocean
Ship Time Requests submitted through the UNOLS system are at the core
of a system designed to provide equal access for all ocean science researchers
to the appropriate research vessels and facilities.
By correctly filling out your Ship Time Request and by keeping it up
to date, you enhance the ability of the schedulers and program managers
to effectively schedule your project.
Understand the timing of the scheduling process
In order to create schedules based on funded projects, NSF has determined
that proposals must be submitted by the February deadline in order to
be scheduled in the following calendar year. Proposals submitted later,
such as for the August deadline would be approved for ship time no earlier
than January of the year after the following calendar year (e.g., an
August 2004 proposal, if funded, would go to sea no earlier than January
UNOLS research vessels are scheduled on a calendar year basis, with
preliminary schedules created in the previous summer. Every attempt
is made to finalize schedules by the end of September for the following
year, but late funding decisions, changing requirements and other factors
have made this increasingly difficult. Major projects requiring large
ships, multiple ships and facilities, or operations in the remote regions
of the world, should be submitted as early as possible and should be
planned with as much flexibility as possible for the actual scheduling
of field work.
Accurately tie the Ship Time Request to proposal information
To ensure that projects are tracked correctly by program managers and
schedulers and are scheduled according to approved funding levels, it
is extremely important that the identifying information on the Ship
Time Request is reflective of the proposal (or proposals) submitted
to NSF. This is especially important for collaborative proposals. There
have been several occasions in the past when a funded project was not
recognized and scheduled properly because the information provided differed
from that in the proposal.
Ship Time Requests should be submitted under the name of the lead PI
on the proposal for which ship time will be approved. Co-PI’s,
collaborators and prospective Chief Scientists can be listed in the
appropriate sections of the Ship Time Request but should not be listed
as the PI. The request can be entered into the system by someone other
than the PI with their own contact information noted, but the PI should
still be listed as such for purposes of tracking the request with the
Once the proposal has been submitted through Fastlane and a proposal
number has been assigned, go back and edit the Ship Time Request to
show the NSF proposal number (i.e., OCE number). This cannot be done
automatically under the current system. The correct proposal number
helps track the request and is required by the ship operators. Temporary
numbers do not help and should not be included. Institution numbers
are only needed if they are useful to the PI or institution.
Include the Ship Time Request as the last page (in the supplemental
documents section) when you submit your proposal, but continue to edit
the online version as changes become necessary during the review and
Keep your Ship Time Requests current and remove unnecessary
Create a new Ship Time Request when submitting a new proposal, including
resubmission of a proposal that was previously declined. If you use
an existing Ship Time Request that the schedulers and facilities program
managers associate with a declined project, it could get lost in the
process. A new Ship Time Request will ensure that it is associated with
the new proposal.
Use more than one Ship Time Request if your project requires more than
one ship doing substantially different work, especially when the work
area will be very different. Also, use more than one request when the
number of years or cruises exceeds the limits of the form. Divide the
requests in any logical way. Keep the requests up to date when requirements
for timing, type of equipment or type of ship change. Remove requests
from the system that are no longer required because the work has been
completed or the project was not funded.
Make sure when you create a new request or make changes to an existing
request that you click on the “Final Form Submission” button,
which will transmit your request to the facilities program managers,
schedulers and yourself. It will also enter the request into the searchable
database used by schedulers. If you need to save your work and make
changes before submitting the request as final, you can use the “submit
as draft” button, but remember that this will not put the request
in the system and make it available to schedulers. The email you receive
at that point is for your records only and does not go to anyone else.
Use a password that you can easily remember so that you can return
to edit your request in the future. Contact the UNOLS office if you
need help with your password.
Changes are planned to enhance and improve the system to make it easier
to use and a more effective tool for scheduling, cruise planning and
Over the next year, the UNOLS office, working with the Ocean Information
Center (OCEANIC), will create an updated version of the Ship Time Request
system. The current system has been in existence for over ten years
and is based on text files and scripts. Although effective in making
sure that a PI located at any institution or location can make their
research vessel and facility requirements known to program managers
and schedulers, the system can be awkward and difficult to use and to
keep up to date.
A newer system built on an SQL relational database with a web based
front end will be designed. This will allow PI’s to create an
account through which they can manage their Ship Time Requests and track
the associated research vessel schedules by logging in with a single
password. Requests will be automatically tied to the PI’s contact
information and to project specific information. New projects and new
requests can be created by duplicating and then editing older records.
Schedules will be tied directly to requests, as will reports and cruise
The committee working on this project would appreciate your input.
Any suggestions that will be useful in creating the new system can be
sent to the UNOLS office email@example.com.
All investigators submitting proposals to the Division of Ocean
Sciences that include sea-going field work must also submit an
electronic research ship request form and include a copy with
the proposal. Electronic ship request forms are available on the
UNOLS Home Page web site (http://www.unols.org).
In addition, investigators submitting proposals that require use
of a UNOLS ship to NSF programs other than Ocean Sciences must
follow the same procedure.
Please note that ship time requests must be received by the Feb.
15 target date to be considered for ship time in the following