The drilling vessel, the OD21 (which stands for Ocean Drilling in the 21st century) is unique, and its crew will face some unique hazards. It will exceed the current scientific drilling capabilities dramatically by drilling down to much greater depths and through potential high-pressure zones to take core samples. The researchers' goals are to find out more about earthquakes and climate changes.
The OD21 riser drilling system uses a large-diameter pipe, a so-called riser, to connect the vessel to the wellhead on the seabed. This pipe is used as a pathway for mud re-circulation and also guides the drill string for re-entry into the well.
Once the overall risk evaluation is completed by DNV, an evaluation will be carried out to verify that no single failure could cause the vessel to loose its ability to keep its position. In addition several hazard and operability analyses have been carried out regarding the dynamic positioning system and the drilling and lifting equipment.
Sea trials will be held to check the ship's hull performance and a commissioning test will be carried out on her dynamic positioning system in December. After that, she will move to Nagasaki, where the "topside" drilling and core sampling equipment will be installed.
The vessel is part of a Japanese research and development project that forms part of the international Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Japan Marine, Science and Technology Center JAMSTEC is the owner of the vessel. OD21 is expected to be in full operation in 2005. The vessel contains extensive lab and helicopter-landing facilities. As many as 150 people will be on board when she is in operation including crew members and scientists.