A special ship, which will be of immense use for India's underwater exploration, arrived at Chennai from Italy on Saturday.
The Rs 230-crore Sagar Nidhi, nicknamed the 'Pearl of the Ocean', acquired by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, will enable the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) scientists to obtain oceanographic and hydrographic information, including water, ice and core sampling of the seabed.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences plans to undertake a bathymetric (sea-bottom surface) survey of India's entire Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Sagar Nidhi will be involved in this task with its multi-beam echo sounder, which is capable of sea-floor topography down to a depth of six kilometres, NIOT sources said.
"We need our own ships for the task and cannot let private vessels do it for us, in view of security and defence considerations," sources said.
The 5,000-ton technology demonstration vessel with navigational state-of-the-art facilities will be a first of its kind to be used for demonstration of underwater technology of submersibles like Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), Deep Seabed Mining Systems, Robotics and Manned Submersibles.
Sources in the Ministry of Earth Sciences said the NIOT had the vessel built by one of the world's largest ship building groups, Fincantieri, within a record 22 months at the Italian Naval Shipyard in Genoa. The ship will be particularly useful for the NIOT, which has been entrusted with developing underwater technology with equipment like Remotely Operated Vehicles and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles.
The greatest single attribute of the Sagar Nidhi is its Dynamic Positioning System, which controls the manoeuvreability of the ship and keeps it virtually static while deploying submersibles. The ship can stay put within five metres, NIOT sources added.
As the ROV will be equipped with sensors for locating methane and carbon dioxide under the water, the Sagar Nidhi with its ROV will also play an important role in the search of gas hydrate deposits in the Indian ocean bed, the sources added.