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Ex-Navy minelayer to set sail on first mission as maritime research vessel

The retired Finnish minelayer Pohjanmaa has been converted into a maritime research vessel and renamed the Pohjanmeri. In about one week it will head out on its maiden voyage as a research ship to map the ocean bed in the Barents Sea.

Merentutkimusalus Pohjanmeri
The Pohjanmeri docked at the Teijo shipyard. Image: Samuli Holopainen / Yle

The decommissioned flagship navy minelayer Pohjanmaa has undergone a complete transformation and is to be redeployed as a research vessel. The most striking change is the ship’s new paint job – it has shed its grey exterior and now sports the colours of the Finnish flag, blue and white.

In addition to the physical makeover, the ship has also been renamed the Pohjanmeri and has a new owner, the Finnish Maritime Association, now known as Meritaito, a state-owned waterways and marine infra development company.

Barents Sea deployment ahead

In about one week the re-fitted ship and its 12-member crew will leave its berth at the Helsinki harbor and head off to the map the ocean floor of the Barents Sea for Norwegian cartographers.

Päällikkö Heikki Nuotio komentosillalla.
Captain Heikki Nuotio on the bridge of the newly-recommissioned research vessel. Image: Samuli Holopainen / Yle

Ship’s captain Heikki Nuotio described the upcoming assignment as a challenging marine mapping assignment. The area to be charted is some 11,000 square kilometres and the vessel and crew are likely to encounter icebergs and very high winds.

"The waters may be below freezing and air temperatures may be barely above zero. Challenges will include ice, freezing, the weather and the vast distances," Nuotio pointed out.

Respect for the sea

Captain Nuotio said it will be his first time venturing into the Barents Sea.

Merentutkimusalus Pohjanmeri
The refitted ship's first mission will be a challenging assignment in the Barents Sea. Image: Samuli Holopainen / Yle

"It can easily take us up to two days to get to shelter. You have to respect the sea," he remarked.

However Nuotio noted that the vessel is large and safe.

"I would happily go to sea with this vessel. It has two independent engines," Nuotio added.

Meritaito paid 100,000 euros to purchase the vessel, however the total cost after refurbishing and equipping it for its new mission has amounted to some 2.3 million euros.

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