Further, environmental protection isn’t only important in the engine room, but everywhere else on board. After all, with up to 44 crewmembers and up to 55 researchers and technicians, there are nearly one hundred people on board, all of whom need to take showers and use the toilet. A sophisticated filtering system cleans the wastewater, producing crystal-clear water that would be safe for human consumption, but which is thrown overboard. In contrast, no litter is thrown overboard, even though, according to the regulations for high-seas shipping, doing so is permissible for biodegradable substances like wood or cardboard. On the Polarstern, the waste is clearly separated into food waste, plastics, and paper, collected in a six-metre-long container, and properly disposed of at the next port of call. Only in the event that the container becomes full before reaching the next port, which can occasionally happen, as the ship’s journeys can take up to 80 days, is part of the waste burnt in an incinerator commonly used on high-seas ships.
On the AWI’s 55-metre-long Research Vessel Heincke, environmental protection is a considerably simpler matter, because the maximum of twelve researchers and the same number of crewmembers never spend more than a month on board, sailing through the North Sea and in the North Atlantic to Spitsbergen. The waste that accumulates and is sorted on board can be easily disposed of after returning to Bremerhaven. Once back at her homeport, the ship can also be supplied with electrical power from shore, eliminating the need to burn fuel. Since the main engines of the Heincke, which was first commissioned in 1990, had begun showing their age, in early 2015 they were replaced by three diesel engines that produce a combined output of 2140 horsepower, but are more economical than their predecessors.
Further, the Heincke only had sufficient room for a soot and exhaust filtering system, which uses a catalytic converter to remove nitrogen oxides, once its original smokestack was dismantled. The filtering system is directly integrated into the new smokestack and, since its installation, the AWI’s second-largest research ship has been cruising the North Sea and North Atlantic as cleanly as possible, thanks to the cutting-edge technology used.