VESSEL REVIEW | Atair – State-of-the-art dual-fuel research vessel for the German government


The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie; BSH) the German government agency charged with ensuring maritime safety, performing hydrographic surveys, and responding to maritime pollution incidents, recently took delivery of a new multi-purpose vessel from local shipyard Fassmer.

The DNV GL-classed Atair will replace a similarly named 30-year-old vessel in the BSH fleet in carrying out the roles of hydrographic survey, marine research, marine environmental monitoring, shipwreck searches, and offshore windfarm site characterisation in the waters of Germany’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The newer Atair is currently the largest ship in the BSH fleet, measuring 75 by 16.8 metres and with a lightship displacement of 2,775 tonnes. Its low draught of only five metres will also enable operations much closer to the coast.

The vessel’s large size allows for the installation of a comprehensive suite of hydroacoustic equipment including a multi-beam echosounder, a sub-bottom profiler, a sidescan sonar, and a USBL underwater location device. There is also room for scientific equipment such as an extensive lifting system, winches, a survey system with lateral and forecast sonar, a sediment plumb bob, a fan plumb bob, a flow meter, an underwater positioning system, and a hydrograph shaft for the temporary installation of underwater sensors.

The vessel has also been fitted with a deck crane and equipment for measuring the pollutant content in the emissions generated by nearby ships.

Atair has two wet laboratories and one dry laboratory while the spacious 200-square-metre working deck allows the transport of additional winches, oceanographic equipment, or five containers housing additional laboratories if needed. There is also a diving pressure chamber and a pure air breathing compressor.

Amenities for the 18 crewmembers and 15 scientists include single cabins with toilets, a sauna, a fitness room, and a recreational area.

The vessel may also operate as a mothership for two 10-metre survey tenders that are optimised for operations in shallow waters.

Atair is among the first German-flagged research vessels to be equipped with dynamic positioning. Through the use of a joystick, the vessel can be manoeuvred or automatically held in position within as little as 1.5 metres of an operator’s desired location. This makes it easier – and safer – for the crew to conduct surveys, wreck searches, and other activities that require highly accurate positioning even in rough waters.

The newbuild is also one of the first German-flagged vessels to be fitted from the outset with a diesel-gas-electric propulsion configuration as well as one of the first purpose-built research vessels in the world to utilise LNG as fuel. Electricity for the electric propulsion and manoeuvring units is supplied by a pair of dual-fuel engines, one of which will be powered exclusively by LNG while the other may also run on diesel with a sulphur content of less than 0.1 per cent.

A separate diesel-only auxiliary engine has also been installed though it will be used mainly as a redundancy in the event of a failure in the onboard LNG supply system or if the LNG bunker supply is not guaranteed.

When running only on LNG, which is supplied by a 130-cubic-metre fuel tank, Atair could achieve a maximum endurance of 10 days, making it capable of sustained operations far from shore. Further, in LNG-only mode, emissions of sulphur dioxide and CO2 are expected to be reduced by as much as 90 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.

The diesel and LNG dual-fuel engine and the auxiliary diesel engine have both been fitted with exhaust gas aftertreatment systems and soot particle filters to enable the vessel to comply with IMO Tier III regulations.

Atair’s propulsion units were all supplied by Schottel. These include a 1,000kW SPJ 220 main propulsion pump jet that enables the vessel to sail at speeds of up to 13 knots, a 330kW STT 1 fixed-pitch transverse thruster in the bow, and a 200kW STT 170 fixed-pitch transverse thruster in the stern to help ensure maximum manoeuvrability. The jets also guarantee reduced underwater noise to meet DNV GL’s Silent class notation, which then translates into optimal onboard working conditions for the vessel’s complement of scientists and researchers.

Atair is based at BSH’s facilities in Hamburg and is being operated primarily in the North and Baltic Seas as well as in the North Atlantic.

More great content as part of this week’s Research and Training Week right here

Type of vessel:Hydrographic survey vessel
Classification:DNV GL
Owner:Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, Germany
Operator:Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, Germany
Designer:Fassmer, Germany
Builder:Fassmer, Germany
Length overall:75 metres
Beam:16.8 metres
Draught:5.0 metres
Displacement:2,775 tonnes
Capacity:5 x containerised laboratories on working deck; 2 x survey craft
Main engines:2
Propulsion:Schottel SPJ 220 pump jet, 1,000 kW
Auxiliary engine:1
Side thrusters:Schottel STT 1 fixed-pitch bow thruster, 330 kW; Schottel STT 170 fixed-pitch stern thruster; 200 kW
Maximum speed:13 knots
Sonar:Sidescan sonar; lateral and forecast survey sonars
Other electronics:Multi-beam echosounder; sub-bottom profiler; USBL underwater location device; underwater positioning system
Cranes:Deck crane
Other equipment installed:Lifting system; sediment plumb bob; fan plumb bob; flow meter; emission pollutant measuring equipment; pure air breathing compressor; exhaust gas aftertreatment systems; soot particle filters
Interior fitout/furnishings:2 x wet laboratories; dry laboratory; diving pressure chamber; sauna; fitness room; recreational area
Tenders:2 x survey craft
Type of fuel:Low-sulphur diesel; LNG
Accommodation:Single cabins with toilets

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!