2019 02 14

Little Downtime for Klaipėda’s Mintis

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 “Those who own ships know that the greatest sin is to keep them moored at the dock. Our own vessel, Mintis, is almost always out at sea. We’re fully booked for this entire year and even for part of next year. The boat only returns to the harbour for a change of crew, to replenish food and water supplies or to find refuge from storms,” explains Dr. Nerijus Blažauskas, the man in charge of the fleet at the Klaipėda University (KU) Marine Research Institute.

The Mintisis a research vessel that is already well-known in international waters. Especially to those businesses that build offshore wind turbines, install underwater cables and pipelines or carry out engineering work in harbours and wind farms. The team behind the Mintiscontinually receives enquiries about various research missions in the Baltic or North Sea and even in the Atlantic Ocean.

A lot of work is conducted for both foreign and local clients. From cartographic expeditions measuring Lithuania’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, studies of sand replenishment for the Palanga seabed and littoral zone, to research for a business field new to Lithuania – the development of offshore wind power.

Presented to the Global Community

According to Dr. Nerijus Blažauskas, the construction of the Mintiswas completed in 2014, when it was handed over to KU for use as a research vessel – as soon as preparatory work was over, the vessel actively began to be used for various projects. In 2016, this modern marine laboratory made its way to the Oceanology International trade fair in London, where it was presented to the global marine research community.

Representatives of the marine business from all over the world – manufacturers of equipment, service providers and service seekers – gather at the fair every two years to network and see what is new in their field. Klaipėda’sMintisreceived a lot of attention from various institutions and countries. People were interested in the possibilities of the ship, living and working conditions as well as the crew’s experience. After the fair, offers for cooperation and potential projects came flooding in.

Wind turbines, cables and pipes.

According to the head of the KU fleet, the Mintiscrew now primarily works on pre-project marine research in the field of wind turbine construction. Before a wind farm can be constructed, the ship sails over to the designated stretch of water and remotely explores its geological conditions and seabed, checking whether there are any obstacles or dangerous objects and conducting other necessary work.

When the marine turbines are installed, the focus shifts to monitoring: making sure that cables are exactly where they are supposed to be according to the project plan, that they are buried sufficiently deep enough and that they have not been uncovered.

The crew also monitors the network of cables installed underwater – are they in place, have they been damaged or affected by corrosion. The Mintishas also conducted such work on part of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, at the stretch where it intersects with the underwater NordBalt electric cable.

For Harbour Expansion and Marine Construction

“We have participated in more than one project for the construction of marine hydrometeorology stations. They are these buoys that have various sensors for monitoring certain components and parameters of the atmosphere and water environment, for example, wind force and direction, water salinity and transparency,” explains Dr. Blažauskas.

The Mintisalso conducts geomechanical studies of sea floor sediment and the seabed for projects such as harbour expansion. Clients are also interested in the biological analysis of water and the sea floor.

Sometimes the ship is used as a platform for divers, i.e., specialist brigades of divers who recover cables that have been uncovered and carry out other engineering tasks. The vessel also participates in rescue missions.

Strategic Projects

“Most often, the ultimate beneficiaries of our services are international companies that order research expeditions. But not only that. For example, last year we did quite a lot of work – perhaps a little over a month – for Lithuanian clients,” emphasises the head of the KU fleet.

The crew’s largest job was the completion of an up-to-date geological cartography of Lithuanian territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. Commissioned by the Lithuanian Geological Service under the Ministry of Environment, the crew conducted a geological study of the surface and deep seabed composition as well as geological maps of a large portion of Lithuania’s territorial waters. According to Dr. Blažauskas, this national project is important to many. For decades, Lithuania simply did not have a suitable vessel or the capacity to carry out such a project. Last year, the data was successfully updated. Stakeholders hope to guarantee funding for a continuation of the study next year.

Another project of considerable strategic significance to Lithuania that the Mintishad a part in was the assessment of sand necessary for the beaches of Palanga. The crew measured sand quantity and quality in the sea and conducted studies of the seabed and littoral zone to determine which area needed replenishment.

For a New Marine Business

“Lithuania needed a ship like this, one that could do different kinds of work,” reveals Dr. Blažauskas, who was also one of the brains behind the initiative to build theMintis, “We tried to make it as multi-faceted as possible so that we could do marine research and monitoring, use it as a platform for different kinds of tasks”.

The purpose of the vessel, as emphasised by the man in charge of the KU fleet, is to, first of all, serve Lithuania’s marine scientists and businesses working directly with the sea, from the Klaipėda harbour and other marine companies conducting various studies to the scientific staff of the KU Marine Research Institute.

Dr. Blažauskas says that Lithuania is inevitably moving towards the emergence of an offshore wind power business. For this reason, the Mintiswas designed to be able to meet the needs of a budding new economic activity in Lithuania. Plans for this move were made from the very beginnings of the Marine Valley – and there is still a great deal of potential to be unlocked.

A network of offshore wind farms is being developed by Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and Great Britain, and Poland has also recently begun to develop its wind farms. While the offshore wind power business is still only gaining momentum in Lithuania, the Mintisis constantly being called upon to do work in this field abroad.

However, the Mintishas already carried out many critical studies in Lithuania that will pave the way for offshore wind power development in the country, including several environmental impact studies.

“We have learned a lot abroad and now have substantial work experience under our belt, so we are capable of providing high-quality services in Lithuania,” explains Dr. Blažauskas.

The marine fleet of the KU Marine Research Institute is part of the open access network OPEN R&D Lithuania. Curated by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), OPEN R&D Lithuania is an innovation infrastructure, service and competence network that unites Lithuania’s universities, research institutes, science and technology parks and open access centres, providing over 2.5 thousand different services in the fields of engineering, IT, biomedicine and biotechnology, material science, physics and chemical technology, natural resources and agriculture.

In order to make it easier for businesses to find their way through the myriad R&D services available and to select what best suits their needs, MITA set up the OPEN R&D Lithuania Contact Centre. It helps companies find the shortest route to a suitable partner from a research institution, gather information about where they can order the services they need and sets up individual meetings. An emailed enquiry is enough to solicit an answer as to where a business should refer to next. Network facilitators will help organisations find business and research contacts and assist them in becoming a partner.

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