VESSEL REVIEW | Uthörn – German science institute adds methanol-fuelled research vessel to fleet

Photo: AWI

Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) took delivery of a new research vessel earlier this month.

Named after an island in Nordfriesland district, Uthorn was built by local shipyard Fassmer. It replaces a similarly named vessel that has been operating as part of AWI’s research fleet since 1982.

The newbuild has a length of 35 metres, a beam of nine metres, a maximum draught of only 2.2 metres, a displacement of 443 tonnes, and accommodations for 25 crewmembers and researchers.

One of the notable features on the new Uthorn is its methanol propulsion system, which will ensure reduced CO2 emissions when operating in the North Sea. Fassmer said Uthorn is the first vessel in Germany to be powered by methanol.

The propulsion arrangement consists of diesel engines that have been refitted to run on methanol. These then supply power to two 300kW electric motors, which are in turn connected to controllable-pitch propellers. This configuration enables Uthorn to achieve a top speed of 10 knots and sail for up to 1,200 nautical miles in between refuelings.

Photo: AWI

AWI said the earlier Uthorn consumed approximately 76 tonnes of diesel oil per year on average, producing the equivalent of around 243 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Since the methanol used in the new Uthorn is produced using green electricity and biomass, it only emits as much CO2 as was previously removed from the atmosphere, resulting in what the owner said is a climate-neutral seagoing platform.

The vessel’s research equipment includes trawls, water samplers, an aft knuckle boom crane, and a fish-finding multi-beam echosounder. There is also space for wet and dry laboratories and a stern ramp for the launch and recovery of a small boat.

AWI said the vessel is also highly efficient when it comes to heating and cooling, being the first ever vessel to utilise a water-to-water heat pump that needs only a fifth of the energy required for a conventional boiler.

Uthorn’s area of operations will cover the German Bight, particularly the waters just off AWI’s research station on Heligoland. The institute said it expects the vessel to spend a total of 280 days at sea each year, and these days will also include trips with embarked marine science students.

Photo: AWI
Type of vessel: Research vessel
Flag: Germany
Owner: Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany
Builder: Fassmer, Germany
Length overall: 35 metres
Beam: 9.0 metres
Draught: 2.2 metres
Displacement: 443 tonnes
Propulsion: 2 x controllable-pitch propellers
Maximum speed: 10 knots
Range: 1,200 nautical miles
Hydraulic equipment: Heat pump
Fishing equipment: Trawls
Other equipment installed: Water samplers
Type of fuel: Methanol
Crew: 25
Operational area: German Bight

Baird Maritime

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