It will be used to mine metals from the seabed, says Minister
CHENNAI: The Sagar Nidhi, commissioned as India’s largest multidisciplinary oceanography research vessel (ORV) on Monday, will be used to mine metals from the seabed, explore the energy potential of underwater methane reserves, manage the tsunami warning system and assist Arctic and Antarctic research.
Formally dedicating the vessel to the nation at Chennai Port, the Union Minister for Earth Sciences, Kapil Sibal, said it would propel valuable research trajectories. “We have been looking forward to the acquisition of this vessel for several years…Many ongoing projects of the Ministry could not fructify in the absence of a vessel with these world-class technological capabilities,” said Mr. Sibal.
The Rs. 232-crore ORV Sagar Nidhi will be operated by the National Institute of Ocean Technology. After a few testing and short trial runs in April, the vessel will head to the Central Indian Ocean by October this year on its first scientific voyage to search for and recover polymetallic nodules.
Shipping Minister T.R. Baalu said the vessel’s remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and crawlers would be able to trawl the sea-bed at depths up to 6,000 feet (from the earlier capabilities of 500 feet) to find, identify and grab samples of the cobalt, nickel and manganese that surveys have shown.
“We are slowly destroying mineral resources on land, but there is enormous wealth at the bottom of the ocean which has not even been explored,” said Mr. Sibal. The ROVs and unmanned submersibles on board the Sagar Nidhi will be able to explore not only these mineral resources, but also potential energy reserves, in the form of gas hydrates, which contain methane encapsulated in ice. As an ice class vessel, the ORV Sagar Nidhi will assist in South Pole explorations where India has been allotted a 1.5 lakh square kilometres research area. With its dynamic positioning system and large deck space, the vessel can launch a number of exploratory vessels and submersibles. Underwater mining is possible with its capabilities for deep sea bed coring and the modular laboratories it can set up on the ocean floor. Despite the cutting edge technology, “equipment doesn’t find solutions; human beings do,” Mt. Sibal said. With that in mind, he promised full support to the planned Maritime University, and encouraged maritime nations to follow the example of Norway which will set up a maritime institute in Tamil Nadu soon. Later in the day, he continued the emphasis on human resources with a speech at the inauguration of the Ocean Gallery of the Periyar Science and Technology Centre, encouraging the hall full of schoolchildren to explore the world of science in general and ocean studies in particular.