Is this a German Buoy Tender? Icebreaker?

SCHOTTEL Mehrzweckschiffe

It is always interesting to find that others deal with missions you perform in a very different way.

A Marine Link report on the new ship above piqued my curiosity about the parent agency. The German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV),

“… is responsible for ensuring a safe, smoothly flowing and thus economically efficient shipping traffic. The tasks comprise the maintenance, operation as well as the upgrading and construction of the federal waterways including the locks, weirs, bridges and shiplifts.

The responsibility of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration extends to a total of 23,000 km² of maritime waterways and approximately 7,300 km of inland waterways. In addition, we maintain Vessel Traffic Service Centres at waterways in the coastal area and traffic control centres at inland waterways and we use special vessels for different specialist tasks (buoy laying, emergency missions, direction-finding etc.).

Around the clock, our experts on the water and ashore ensure safe traffic flows.

Our leitmotif is: “Facilitate mobility and protect the environment!”

Sounds like it has some of the Coast Guard’s missions and some Corps of Engineers missions.

The ship itself is described as multi-purpose. Presumably it tends buoys, but it is far bigger and more powerful than any USCG buoy tender, at over 90 meters (290′) in length driven by two steerable propulsion units of 4,500 KW each (over 12,000 HP total). It also has a 2,990 kW (over 4,000 HP) pumpjet.  Our most similar ship seems to be USCGC Mackinaw. (240′ in length and 9,119 shp/6.8 MW).

Mackinaw is of course a domestic icebreaker, in addition to being able to tend buoys.  The new German ship looks like it might also be capable of light icebreaking. (Maybe Tups who comments here frequently would be able to tell us.)

SCHOTTEL RudderPropellers type SRP 750 (each 4,500 kW at 750 rpm) on the left. SCHOTTEL PumpJet type SPJ 520 (2,990 kW) on the right. Image: SCHOTTEL

The German ship also has a gas-tight “citadel” structure with a protective air supply, in order to carry out operations in hazardous atmospheres. In the Coast Guard only the National Security Cutters have this feature.

19 thoughts on “Is this a German Buoy Tender? Icebreaker?

  1. I have not found any information about these vessels being strengthened for navigation in ice-covered waters. The vertical stem is also quite an obvious signal that these ships are not intended for independent ice operation.

    • Most likely reason being because they’ve haven’t been constructed yet! First Vessel of it klasse isn’t expected to be launched until 2023…

      • Most of the technical information is already available, but of course it’s impossible to say with absolute certainty whether the ice class is just missing from the data set (they forgot to include it) or if the ship will be built without additional strengthening. It could still have a low ice class even though the hull does not have any icebreaking form.

      • How do you predict the capabilities of a ship that has been constructed yet by the sum of the parts that makeup its design?/! The last Ship to be similarly tested by the some of its parts was the CVN-78 “Gerald R. Ford”, before it was even constructed. And we all know how that testing results worked out “after” she was constructed. “Virtual isn’t Real”…

      • What do you mean?

        I looked up the technical characteristics from IHS Sea-web which usually has quite accurate information. There was no mention of ice class but, as I mentioned in my earlier reply, they might has forgotten to include it in the data set. In fact, the whole class notation was missing. However, it did not have the general checkboxes for “ice-strengthened” or “icebreaking, arranged for” ticked either so I’m leaning towards this class of vessels not featuring an ice-strengthened hull at all.

        As for the hull form, 3D renderings tend to be fairly accurate for such major features. If you compare this ship to e.g. Arkona, another German buoy tender with icebreaking capability, you can see the difference in general bow geometry.

      • So the Aircraft Carrier “Gerald R. Ford” is a SUCCESS because everything tested in 3D Virtual came to fruition in the REAL world…

      • @ Secundius, I don’t understand your point either. No one has said this vessel is a success, though it probably will be. It is hardly pushing the bounds of known engineering. Tups has been good enough to tell us what he has found out. There was no speculation beyond that. The Ford tried to do complex tasks in entirely new ways. That is hardly the case here.

      • “Tups” is claiming a success to a ship that hasn’t even been constructed yet. Where everything was tested in “3D Virtual” before even having been tested in the Real World. Computer Simulations are “Garbage IN, Garbage OUT”, without the Nth degree of unknown variables that can’t be programmed into a Computer Simulation…

      • “Most technical information is already available”! Available to what? And what was the Available information applicable too. You can’t make Available Information applicable to a ship not yet constructed. The Titanic was claimed to be unsinkable even before it was actually constructed. I suspect they said that the Skipjack was the best submarine in the world, before it for whatever reason simple imploded…

      • @Secundius, All he said was that there is no indication it is to be built to an ice classification. That is all he really said. Specifications are technical information, and they exist even before the ship is built. That is what he was referring to. Again no claim for the design except to say that there is no indication it has icebreaking capability.

      • I think the biggest uncertainty in this vessel relates to its power plant which is designed to run on natural gas only as opposed to a more common dual-fuel system. Otherwise it’s a fairly standard buoy tender with perhaps numerous incremental improvements in various aspects. However, they are not trying to revolutionize buoy handling and fairway work altogether.

        Success is never guaranteed, but the probability of failure is quite low for this vessel.

      • More and more ship’s around the world are turning to Natural Gas as an alternative fuel supply, some are even considering Liquid Hydrogen as a fueling source…

      • That’s true. Methanol and ammonia are also on the table as alternatives to diesel oil.

  2. On the topic of icebreaking buoy tenders, turns out the Chinese just launched their first such vessel, Haixun 156 (海巡156):

    http://news.cnhubei.com/content/2021-04/15/content_13736966.html

    I was able to scrape the following information from various articles: length 74.9 m, beam 14.3 m, draught about 4 m (based on photographs), depth to main deck 6.2 m and displacement 2400 tonnes.

    The ship has two electrically-driven azimuthing propulsion units and a single bow thruster. Icebreaking capability is reportedly 5 knots in 0.5 m ice or 3.5 knots in 0.6 m ice. There’s no information about the ice class but I’d guess “light” based on the relatively lightly-built bilge keels.

    Construction began in April 2019 and the ship will be delivered later this year. The ship is intended for service in the seasonally-freezing Bohai Sea.

    The bow looks very much like the classic Canadian Type 1100 buoy tenders/light icebreakers and the stern… well, if I had to guess, I’d say someone saw USCGC Mackinaw and tried to describe the hull shape over the phone…

  3. As a late comment on this:

    The primary missions of these multipurpose vessels is to support ships in maritime disasters or other hazardous circumstances in every way possible.

    The current four multipurpose ships are formally assigned by WSV to the interdepartmental German Coastguard and are subordinate to its Maritime Disaster Command (alongside four regular 145ft buoy tenders). The previous ships that this new class replaces (individual ships built in the 80s) are relatively large as well at 230-260 ft in length. Three of these older ships would be replaced by the new class, the fourth was only commissioned in 2005 itself. There are nominally plans to add a fifth – smaller – ship to improve coverage on the western end of the North Sea Coast at some point.

    Usually one ship each is stationed at sea ready to intervene in accidents on both coasts, i.e. in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. The official requirement is to have a ship on site in accidents within two hours.

    Their duty in regard to disaster assistance includes mostly firefighting/rescue, heavy towing and chemical spill recovery. The NBC citadel feature is specifically for this duty. The ships are also relatively large partly because they have an internal tank for 1,000 tons of recovered chemicals.

    One more common part of this duty is also check on oil spills discovered by the pollution control aircraft of the German Navy which do continuous patrols of the EEZ. For better overview when combatting large spills the ships also carry ground communications terminals for direct datalinks with these aircraft.

    While kept available for this primary duty the ships within their alert zone engage in buoy-tending (mostly for high-sea buoys marking approach paths to e.g. the Elbe river mouth), light icebreaking (to maintain these approach paths) or in maritime law enforcement. The helo deck is an added feature in comparison to previous ships that was designed with law enforcement in mind.
    They also perform general salvage duties, such as recovering cargo broken loose, both floating and underwater, or in the past also retrieving whale cadavers.

    Regarding icebreaking: These ships will likely have the same ice class as those that they replace, which is Baltic Class E3 (80 cm or 2’7.5″ of ice, halfway between US A1 and A2 class) – which is considered basically the maximum considered necessary to open up routes in the Baltic Sea. The fourth, newer multipurpose ship that is not being replaced (Arkona) is also Class E3.

  4. First burn for first ship was June 28th, keel-laying Sep 9th. Planned commissioning Q3/2023. The hulls are built in Lithuania at Western Baltija.

    The ships will be 99.8m / 327 ft long, 19.8m / 65 ft wide and have a draft of 7.0m / 23 ft.

    The head of the unit that will be deploying them has confirmed that “they will be able to do everything the previous units did”, which would also mean having Baltic E3 icebreaking capability.
    Gas citadel feature is claimed to be “far beyond military NBC citadel standard”. Bollard pull as tugs is a rather respectable 1450 kN (163 short tonnes), the old ships were considerably lower. The main capability considered “new” is the helicopter deck.

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