New emergency response ships unveiled

'Mellum' - one of two workhorses being replaced 'Mellum' - one of two workhorses being replaced

The German Government has unveiled plans for two powerful new multi-purpose emergency response vessels of up to 85m for service in the North Sea from 2019.

The Transport Ministry in Berlin has invited tenders for the construction of the two complex newbuildings from EU shipyards. The invitation closes at the end of March. The ships will operate for the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) which says they will “strengthen safety in the North Sea and Baltic”. The new ships will be equipped to deal with accidents at sea involving oil and dangerous substances such as chemicals as well as fight fires and act as tugs.

They will replace the existing multi-purpose emergency response ships Mellum - built in 1984 and now serving in the North Sea - and the Scharhörn – built in 1974 and working in the Baltic.

The WSV said both newbuildings will serve in the North Sea. The new Mellum will replace its old namesake while the replacement for Scharhörn will also serve there. When that happens, the 78.9m long and 18m wide Neuwerk will be transferred to the Baltic. That ship was completed at Volkswerft in Stralsund in 1998. Boasting a bollard pull of 113 tons it is currently the strongest ship in Germany’s fleet of multi-purpose emergency response vessels, the WSV said.

The new ship contracts will be keenly fought over, not just by smaller, specialist local shipyards like frontrunning Fassmer and Lürssen, but also by larger facilities seeking to fill work slots.  

Small bidders in the frame might include Elsflether Werft which built the 80.45m long and 15.1m wide Mellum in 1984. However the Rheinwerft Walzum, which built the supply ship Ostertor  - the forerunner of the 56.12m long and 14m wide Scharhörn in 1974 – will not be among the contenders. It closed down in 1982. Interested bigger yards might include Neuwerk builder Volkswerft, now part of Nordic Yards.

The invitation to tender for the construction of the two versatile newbuildings stipulates design, construction and delivery and describes the ships to be built as oil and accident combat vessels for the WSV. They will be of maximum 85m length and are expected to be at least 18.6m wide. They will draw 5m when laying buoys and 5.8m when in accident or salvage operation, the tender invitation declares.

The stipulated propulsion system is Diesel-electric and the ships will need to be classified for special oil collection and chemicals combat operation. They will also need to demonstrate top-notch sea-holding characteristics and manoeuvrability and post a sea trial speed of 15 knots.

The two new ships are just the latest in a series of specialist ship renewals announced by a German Government anxious to replace ageing tonnage.

By Tom Todd

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