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Commissioning of the new AWI research ship MYA II

On 13 August 2013 the research ship MYA II will be handed over to science at a ceremony in List on Sylt.

Prof. Dr. Waltraud Wende, the Schleswig-Holstein Minister for Education and Research, is going to be present at the event, as well as representatives of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

The new AWI research vessel MYA II.
Photo: Florian Lange, Alfred-Wegener-Institut

One highlight will be the awarding of the “Blue Angel” eco label for the environmentally friendly ship design of the MYA II. The public will then be invited to get to know the ship in List harbour, and talk to scientists during the open day at the neighbouring Alfred Wegener Institute’s Wadden Sea Station Sylt.

“Whilst this is our smallest research vessel, it is extremely modern and ideally equipped for coastal research”, said Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) during the launch of the MYA II last month in the Fassmer shipyard. She is impressed by the modern technology on board which is reminiscent of the equipment on large research vessels.

The ship has a network and data logging system, which continually stores the measurements from various sensors centrally. Fixed installations include a navigation system for precise position location, a sonar system for mapping the seabed, a multibeam echo sounder to estimate the biomass of fish and an ADCP for measuring the current. In addition the stern of the MYA II has a crane boom, the so-called A-frame. Using this the two-man crew and up to twelve scientists are able to lift heavy equipment weighing up to a tonne from the working deck into the water, such as the box corer used to obtain sediment samples.

These scientific measurement and sampling devices are moved using trawl lines or research winches. In addition to recording data, a so-called single core cable enables sampling devices to be opened or closed by computer if the sensors indicate conditions pointing to exciting small algae or animals.

Unlike its predecessor, the research catamaran MYA, the MYA II is a single hull ship, achieving a speed of up to ten knots. “This means we can extend our examination radius around Sylt and up to Helgoland”, says geologist Dr. Christian Hass from the Wadden Sea Station Sylt. The AWI scientist will be one of the principal users, taking samples from the seabed with corers.

He combines grain size analyses of sand and silt with bathymetric and other hydroacoustic measurement data, and on the basis of this compiles comprehensive maps. “These help us understand where various kinds of sediment are deposited, how the seabed is structured and which plants and animals it provides suitable habitats for”, Hass explains. “When repeated regularly these measurements enable us to recognise changes and to correlate influential factors such as climate change or anthropogenic influence”, the geologist adds.

Together with biologists at the Wadden Sea Station, Hass uses an underwater video system on board. On the one hand this makes it possible to directly control whether the seabed actually looks the way it is interpreted on the basis of measured data. On the other hand it also shows what is living beneath the surface of the water. The interaction of flora and fauna in the food web is one of the biological key issues examined at the AWI Wadden Sea Station. Scientists have long gone beyond a simple description of “who is eating whom?” They use computer models to calculate material flows between the various levels of the food web under diverse environmental conditions.

They start with the productivity of phytoplankton, which produce energy from sunlight, moving on to crustaceans and fish and then to seals and to humans as end consumers. “The new multibeam echo sounder will, for example, enable us to estimate fish biomass without net catches. Previously we had to catch large numbers of fish and determine their length individually using a measuring board”, the Sylt coastal researcher PD Dr. Harald Asmus says to explain the advantages of the new measuring technology.

“We are now able to investigate the demands of individual species and their interaction without a need for intervention in the ecosystem. This provides us with the basis for a responsible use of the Wadden Sea, which is a UNESCO world heritage site,” the biologist says.

Young scientists will also be able to use the new coastal research tool. Students from national and international universities are regular guests on Sylt. As with students at graduate schools, on internships and at summer schools, on board they learn about using modern oceanographic equipment. The motorised dinghy brings those interested in processes in flat water and on the mud flats right up to tidal inlets.

“We placed great value on environmentally friendly technology when building the MYA II in order to minimise disturbance to the Wadden Sea caused by research activities,” says AWI Director Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte. The new ship, which cost 4.5 million euros to build, has a particulate filter as well as a waste gas purification system, which removes nitrogen oxide (NOx) from engine exhaust fumes.

As a result, the NOx emissions of the MYA II are around 85 % below the current limit. Moreover an environmentally friendly ship coating was used and an impressed current system was installed to prevent corrosion on the hull as a substitute for toxic zinc anodes. Neither wastewater nor oily bilge water from the engine room get into the sea, but are disposed of in port. Dr. Ralf-Rainer Braun, member of the eco label jury is pleased about the award: “The MYA II demonstrates that more environmental protection is possible in shipbuilding. We hope that the Blue Angel on the MYA II will serve as a positive example to other research vessels.”

The eco label will be revealed during a celebration on 13 August 2013 when the MYA II is handed over to science. Following the commissioning of the ship, it will open its doors from 4.30 to 7 pm in List harbour on Sylt to give interested guests an opportunity to look around the new research vessel. Employees invite people to the open day at the nearby Wadden Sea Station (Hafenstraße 43) from 4.30 to 9 pm, and are looking forward to talking to guests about their current research work.

Technical data:
Name: MYA II
Home port: List, Sylt
Construction: Fassmer shipyard, Berne
Year of construction: 2013
Overall length: 21.70 metres
Width: 6.00 metres
Draught: Maximum 1.50 metres
Displacement: 120 tonnes
Speed: Maximum 10 knots
Crew: 2 people
Scientific personnel: Maximum of 12 people
• Laboratory room with wet working area, sinks and connection of fresh and seawater.
• IT workstations, among other things to control hydroacoustic systems
• Network and “DShip” data logging and management system
• Two trawl line winches and two research winches (one with single conductor wire)
• Stern crane (A-frame – one tonne) as well as a working crane (0.85 tonnes with ten-metre boom)
• Two side arms to deploy scientific equipment up to four metres below the keel.
• Rudder pipe in the laboratory through which measuring equipment can be placed in the water
• Rinsing/sorting desk on deck with connection of fresh and seawater
• Grid (one metre) on deck onto which diverse equipment can be screwed
• Work platform on the stern (for example for divers)
• Motorised dinghy with small crane boom
• Equipment to operate the ship if it falls dry on the mud flats
Notes for editors:
Printable images can be found at:
Your contact partner at the Alfred Wegener Press Office is Dr. Folke Mehrtens (Tel.: 0471 4831-2007; Email:

Your contact partner at the AWI Wadden Sea Station Sylt is Dr. Matthias Strasser (Mobile: 0151 174 53 497; Email

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic and Antarctic and in the high and mid-latitude oceans. The Institute coordinates German polar research and provides important infrastructure such as the research ice breaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic to the international scientific world. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 18 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

Sina Löschke | idw
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