Motor-assisted sailing ships for ocean research could perform as well as or better than many existing research vessels and could cut fuel consumption by 50–80%, according to a preliminary study by an ad hoc panel of the National Research Council's Ocean Sciences Board (OSB).
Rising fuel costs plague ship owners and operators. For example, 2 years ago the U.S. oceanographic fleet had a $6 million overrun in fuel costs. Furthermore, the price of marine diesel fuel skyrocketed from $3 per barrel in 1972 to about $38 per barrel in late 1980. Cutting these costs would be welcome if the savings were not made at the expense of additional crew, longer transit times, or less efficient scientific operations. A sailing ship with auxiliary motor propulsion is a promising prospect, according to the Ad Hoc Panel on the Use of Sailing Ships for Oceanography.