Now the Uthörn has finally reached the end of her service life and will soon make way for her successor, which will set new standards in German maritime shipping. The new Uthörn is currently under construction at the Fassmer Shipyard in Berne, Lower Saxony, and her handover to the AWI is slated for October 2022. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided 14.45 million euros of funding for the new coastal research ship. At a length of 35 metres, it will be able to accommodate a five-person crew and four researchers for up to five days at sea, covering up to 1,200 nautical miles. For day cruises, the Uthörn will be able to accommodate up to 25 students and instructors.
In addition, the ship’s technical equipment will be cutting edge: the new research cutter will feature not only an extensive working deck with dry and wet labs, but also two derrick booms for trawling nets and water samplers, a multi-frequency fish echo sounder for finding and identifying swarms of fish, and an anti-roll tank to help keep it stable on choppy seas. But the real gem is how the ship is powered: the new Uthörn will be the first seagoing vessel in Germany equipped with an environmentally friendly and especially low-emission methanol-fuelled drive system.
“I’m happy to say that, with regard to the Uthörn’s successor, we’ve chosen a climate-friendly and environmentally friendly approach for the power supply,” says Prof Antje Boetius. “The greatest benefit is the option of using ‘green’ methanol. Once the methanol’s production is combined with renewable energies, the ship can be operated on a virtually CO2-neutral basis. In addition, methanol dissolves well in water; bacteria break it down almost immediately, which means that, in the event of an accident, it doesn’t pose any major threat to the environment,” the AWI Director explains. Marius Hirsekorn, Logistical Coordinator for the AWI’s research ships, and Dr Michael Klages, who is coordinating the project from a research perspective, cite further advantages: “When methyl alcohol is burnt, substantially fewer soot particles are released into the air than with gasoline, diesel or heavy fuel oil. That being said, the fuel’s energy density, which is only half that of diesel, does pose a challenge. Accordingly, the new Uthörn will be fitted with much larger fuel tanks, ensuring she can bunker enough methanol to maintain a considerable range.”