Germany flags funding for new floating research centre

December 1, 2003

Brussels, 28 Nov 2003

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved funding for a new state-of-the-art research vessel being built to meet the needs of modern oceanography, a statement confirms.

The joint Committee of the DFG decided last month to finance the 'Maria Sibylla Merian', a floating research facility capable of navigating the earth's inhospitable polar regions. The ship is being built as part of a German scheme to prop up its flagging medium-sized research fleet, following the recent decommissioning of two research vessels and a third, the Alexander von Humboldt, scheduled to be taken out of service at the end of 2004.

Although the Maria is classed as a medium-sized vessel, it is being fitted to withstand the harsh, ice-capped conditions prevalent in the northern seas. This is widely considered to be a vital region for research into the "ocean-climate system", according to the DFG, which will help scientists understand more about climate change, marine ecosystems and other important oceanographic issues.

The Foundation will cover 70% of the €55 million construction bill for the Maria under its Central Research Facilities funding instrument, with the remaining 30% being footed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and individual states. This funding model proved successful with the DFG's other research vessel, the Meteor.

Time at sea

The DFG explains its decision to treat the ship as a Central Research Facility ensures that access to the ship will be evenly distributed. This means - as with the Meteor - the new craft will be available to all German oceanographers, along with their international partners. For research centres in this country with multiple borders, this as an important scientific performance criteria, the Foundation confirms.

Building the Maria is part of a broader plan to reinforce Germany's mid-size research fleet. The plan was documented in the 1999 white paper 'Oceanography in the next decade' which called for more modern ships to meet the demanding scientific needs of the oceanography community, such as marine biologists, climatologists and geographers. Armed with this information, federal and state working groups on German Research Vessels (BLAG) gave the go-ahead to build the new ship.

The states contributing to the construction costs are Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Schleswig-Holstein. Once complete, the ship will be based at the Baltic Sea Research Institute Warnemünde (IOW) and will be operated by a consortium which has yet to be agreed. DG Research
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/i ndex_en.html
Item source: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/headl ines/index_en.cfm

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