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Seattle Co. Partners with UW to Build One-of-a-Kind Submarine

Rendering of manned deep sea sub in development in Seattle.

A commercial submarine operator is teaming up with the University of Washington to build a new manned deep-sea sub. The five-passenger mini-sub could be available for charter by oil companies or researchers beginning in 2016.

Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. currently operates two small submarines for hire. It sees a market for deeper diving manned submersibles. To that end, the small company has partnered with the University of Washington and Boeing to design a stubby, bullet-shaped mini-sub with a 180-degree viewing dome in its nose.

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush says this will be "the first deep manned" sub with a hull made out of carbon fiber and thick glass.

"We anticipate making several of these vehicles. They will have different configurations for different applications. But that will all entail the same kind of carbon-fiber hull,” he said.

Rush says the biggest target client is the oil and gas industry. Others users could include the military, deep-sea miners, and academic researchers. But it won't come cheap. Rush says the cost to charter the mini-sub could average $35,000 a day.

Specs published by OceanGate indicate the initial model is being designed to be capable of descending nearly two miles, or 3,000 meters, beneath the waves. Rush says his company still needs to recruit additional investors to fund construction.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.