|Acquired:||by the Philippine Navy 28 April 2016|
|Recommissioned:||28 April 2016|
|Type:||Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship|
|Tonnage:||2,516 tons (7,125 m³)|
|Displacement:||2,944 long tons (2,991 t)|
|Length:||279 feet (85 m)|
|Beam:||46 feet (14 m)|
|Draft:||16 feet 6 inches (5.0 m) (maximum)|
|Propulsion:||two 1,385 hp Propulsion General Electric motors, Bow Thruster: 900 hp retractable Azimuth-compensating bow thruster, Two 1385 hp Z-Drive Lips propellers|
|Speed:||Cruising: 11.7 knots (21.7 km/h); Maximum: 14 knots (26 km/h); Minimum: variable to 0, any direction|
|Range:||Range: 10,061 nm (18,633 km, 11,578 mi) at 11.7 knots (fuel)|
|Endurance:||40 days at 11.7 knots (fuel)|
|Capacity:||Water Capacity: 15,900 gallons (60,200 L)|
|Complement:||23 civilian mariners, 38 scientists|
|Notes:||Fuel consumption: 3,600 gallons per day (13,600 L/d) (transit)|
BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly known as R/V Melville and originally built as the USNS Melville (T-AGOR-14)) is a research vessel formerly operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography for oceanographic research. As the R/V Melville, it was the oldest active vessel in the academic research fleet, collectively known as the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS). The US Government confirmed on 17 November 2015 that the Melville will be transferred to the Philippine Navy as Excess Defense Articles (EDA)s. The vessel was officially transferred to the Philippines on 28 April 2016 and was commissioned into active service at the same time with the Philippine Navy.
The second ship to be so named by the Navy, Melville (AGOR 14) was laid down on 12 July 1967 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Company in Bay City, Michigan, launched on 10 July 1968; sponsored by Marguerite "Peg" Kletchka Cederberg, wife of Congressman Elford Cederberg; and was completed and delivered to the Navy on 1 August 1969, when she was placed in service with the Military Sea Transportation Service as USNS Melville (T-AGOR 14) chartered to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography for operation.
Though often listed as a Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship the ship is of an entirely different appearance, design and size as evidenced by Melville's 2,944 vs. Conrad's 1,370 loaded displacement, dimensions of 279' X 46' X 16.6' as opposed to Conrad's 208'10" X 37'5" X 15'2", general appearance and layout and, most distinctly, completely different propulsion systems and capabilities. Melville's original system was a cycloidal system with propulsion later modified to an advanced system of twin 1,385 hp diesel electric engines driving 1,385 hp Z-Drive Lips with a 900 hp Retractable Azimuthing Thruster allowing the ship to move 360° under main engines while Conrad's was single screw 2,500shp diesel-electric with a retractable azmuthing bow thruster.
A crew of 23 keeps the ship operational, and up to 38 scientists can be accommodated for the purposes of the scientific expedition.
During a career now in its fourth decade, Melville has cruised over almost all the World's oceans in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Modernized in the early 1990s, Melville's hull was lengthened, increasing her displacement to 2670 tons (full-load), and a new propulsion system was installed.
The Melville was used in the 1976 movie King Kong, starring Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges. It was used specifically because of its Hypoid propulsion drive (at that time), which allowed it to move sideways. This type of drive is used, on research vessels, for station keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.
The White House confirmed on 17 November 2015 that the Melville and USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) will be transferred to the Philippine Navy as Excess Defense Articles (EDA)s. On 29 April 2016, the ship was formally turned over and commissioned to the Philippine Navy at a ceremony held in San Diego, California. The ship was renamed BRP Gregorio Velasquez, after a Filipino National Scientist, and assigned the pennant number AGR-702. The ship is expected to provide the Philippine Navy with hydrographic survey and maritime research capabilities.
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