EPA Victoria has successfully operated underway marine monitoring systems on their own vessel since 1996 to map environmental conditions. As part of a science investment program in 2007 EPA Victoria developed an unattended (or autonomous) sampling system for deployment on a Ship of opportunity vessel to provide routine monitoring of Victorian marine ecosystems.

The extensive route, reliability and frequency of Spirit of Tasmania ferries were considered an optimal choice because of the routine course they undertake daily regardless of weather (Lee et al., 2011). The ferries transit the inner Port Phillip Bay and run across the Sands region and crosses Bass Strait arriving in Devonport, Tasmania. 

A collaboration was formed in 2007 with CSIRO, the then Department of Primary Industry’s Fisheries Research Branch, the University of Melbourne and TT Line to support the installation and ongoing operation of the autonomous sampling system on the ‘Spirit of Tasmania I’.

An initial pilot phase during February to July 2008 provided opportunity for system enhancement and testing, formulation of quality procedures and data processing routines, and the development of data products. The observing platform became operational in September 2008 and real-time data delivery provided in late 2013.