SITE REPORTS

Site: Akademik Oparin (Research Vessel)
c/o Pacific Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry (PIBC)
Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
17 Palchevsky Street
Vladivostok, 690041, Russia
Phone: (4232) 311635, 311430
Fax: (4232) 310900

Date Visited: October 27, 1995

WTEC Attendees:

D. Walsh (report author), H. B. Ali, R. Blidberg, S. Chechin, M. J. DeHaemer, L. Gentry, J. Moniz, J. B. Mooney

Hosts:

Dr. Valery A. Rasskazov

Deputy Director, PIBC

Natalie M. Shepetova

Assistant Director for Foreign Relations, PIBC

Captain Vladimir Goluak

Master Akademik Oparin

(plus several staff members who conducted a tour through the ship for the team)

BACKGROUND

This site report is about a research platform rather than an institute, laboratory, or company. However, it is useful to produce this information as a site report since the Akademik Oparin represents a unique, well-equipped research vessel that is available for joint expeditions or outright charter at day rates that are hard to match anywhere in the world. Information on other vessels is included in the FEB RAS site report.

The WTEC team visited the Oparin late in the afternoon of its last day in Vladivostok. Just prior to this visit, the team had been taken on an orientation tour of Vladivostok port's inner harbor (the "Golden Horn") on board a boat belonging to the Institute of Marine Technology Problems. Academician Ageev was the host and guide. At the completion of the tour, the boat was brought alongside the Oparin at a dock area where most of the research fleet of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences was docked.

The team's tour of the ship was very impressive. The vessel was built in Finland by Hollming in 1985. It was especially designed to conduct biochemical and bioorganic research at sea and is one of only two known ships in the world dedicated to this type of research. The other, larger vessel is operated by the Japanese. The vessel also has a wide array of analytical instrumentation and equipment including an electron microscope. According to PIBC director, Academician G. Elyakov, the ship is as well equipped as any of his laboratories at the institute.

The condition of the vessel appeared to be quite good considering that it has not operated very much in the past four years. Its last extended scientific cruise was in 1991, although the PIBC does try to make at least one 30-day scientific cruise a year. Previously, long cruises were taken to the waters around Australia, in the Indian Ocean, and in the Eastern Pacific.

A detailed brochure on the Akademik Oparin is appended to this site report. It gives specific information on the vessel and its characteristics.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

The visit to the 75-meter long Oparin consisted of a thorough tour of the ship's 14 laboratories; diver facilities, including a large decompression chamber; bridge area; and topside spaces. After the tour, a farewell dinner party was given in the ship's mess area. In addition to the WTEC team, approximately 10 other persons were in the party. They were from the PIBC, Institute of Marine Technology Problems (IMTP), and the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (FEB RAS).

The ship is primarily designed to support marine biosciences. The somewhat specialized on-board laboratories have the necessary instrumentation and analytical equipment needed to support this kind of work. However, the laboratories are fairly spacious, and they could be adapted to other kinds of oceanographic research with a minimum of mobilization time. In addition, there is topside space for putting specialized, mission-related vans on board where the added equipment might not fit in one of the laboratories. An A-frame on the stern permits the handling of oceanographic equipment to depths of 500 meters.

To support on-board research projects and to provide autonomy for long-duration cruises, there are a variety of specialized facilities available. For example, there is a fairly large vivarium to hold mice, rats, and other small animals used in research experiments. A glass blowing shop is available to make and repair laboratory glassware. The photo lab provides real-time photographic support for the scientific staff.

Oparin also has a very complete facility for supporting divers. There is a fully equipped diving locker, a high-pressure air compressor for charging scuba tanks, and a large, double lock decompression chamber. The compartment where the chamber is located is equipped with sleeping facilities to permit chamber operations around the clock if required. This diving facility was designed into the ship, recognizing the in situ collection of specimens could be best done by divers. Several PIBC personnel, including scientists, are qualified divers. Diving is restricted to a maximum depth of 40 meters.

A central computer system provides the ability to process data quickly. Academician Elyakov said that often data would be sent to the institute from the ship by satellite link. This permitted scientists at the institute, on a real time basis, to participate in and back up the work being done at sea.

COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES

One way several of the research ships belonging to the FEB RAS can generate income is to be leased for commercial purposes. For example, the WTEC team saw the 6,900 ton Akademik Korolev at the passenger ship terminal in Vladivostok. It is now being used to haul passengers. The Akademik Oparin makes occasional charter trips to Japan, where the charterers buy consumer goods and used cars for import into Russia.

Although the purist might criticize such uses for multimillon-dollar, unique research vessels, FEB RAS must often choose between doing nothing in scientific trips or doing something in charters unrelated to the ship's basic mission. In the former case, the vessel will lie alongside a dock, where it may or may not get needed upkeep maintenance. In the latter, the vessel operates, machinery is maintained, and the crew is kept intact. The right decision is to operate the vessel in any way possible to keep it in operating condition.

The preference of PIBC is to conduct joint scientific programs, where the research activities would benefit both the institute and the visiting researchers. The second choice would be to charter the ship with crew, technicians, and on-board laboratory equipment to another user who would employ it for research. At the dinner party, it was indicated that the rate for the 2,600 ton Akademik Oparin would be about $2,500 a day. This would be inclusive of crew, technicians, food, fuel, and laboratory consumables. An equivalent vessel in the United States would run from $12,000 to $16,000 a day.

SUMMARY

This ship is well-equipped and well-maintained. It manages to get some operational time either for commercial business charters or in limited support of the research programs of the PIBC, which has operational control over the vessel.

The Akademik Oparin would be an excellent bargain for any of Russia's neighboring states in the Far East, where an additional ship platform might be needed on a temporary basis. And for scientific work proposed to be done by foreign scientists inside Russia's territorial waters or in its 200-mile-wide Exclusive Economic Zone, the usual nine-month wait to get research vessel clearances for foreign ships would disappear if the Oparin were used instead.

REFERENCES

2600 T Biological Research Vessel . Illustrated color brochure produced by Hollming, Ltd. of Finland. In Russian and English. Provides detailed information on the Akademic Oparin.

[figure 2_1]
Fig. 2.1. Oparin brochure, cover.

[figure 2_2]
Fig. 2.2. Oparin brochure, p. 1.

[figure 2_3]
Fig. 2.3. Oparin brochure, p. 2.

[figure 2_4]
Fig. 2.4. Oparin brochure, p. 3.

[figure 2_5]
Fig. 2.5. Oparin brochure, p. 4.

[figure 2_6]
Fig. 2.6. Oparin brochure, p. 5.

[figure 2_7]
Fig. 2.7. Oparin brochure, p. 6.

[figure 2_8]
Fig. 2.8. Oparin brochure, p. 7.

[figure 2_9]
Fig. 2.9. Oparin brochure, p. 8.

[figure 2_10]
Fig. 2.10. Oparin brochure, p. 9.

[figure 2_11]
Fig. 2.11. Oparin brochure, p. 10.


Published: August 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian