The Nikolai M. Knipovich Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO) has few operational ships and the ‘Vilnyus’ was one of the small fleet which for years has taken part in ecosystem mapping in the Barents Sea, often in cooperation with Norwegian researchers.
‘Vilnyus’ was an aging ship built in 1984 and technical problems were plenty. Lately, the vessel and its crew had to skip major parts of the major annual ecosystem mapping expedition conducted together with the Norwegian Marine Research Institute becasue of the problems.
The ‘Vilnyus’ is ready for scrapping in any case, an incident that highlights Russia’s need for new research vessels.
The country has major ambitions in the field of marine research and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year stated Russia is expected to become among the top five countries in the world in studies of the sea.
The Fisheries Agency today has a fleet of 30 aging ship, of which 21 are in operation. That number is to be cut to 18 by year’s end. With the loss of the ‘Vilnyus’, that number will drop to 17.
With the breakdown and subsequent loss of the ‘Vilnyus’ the Russian side might not be able to follow up its obligations in the cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
A number of ships are planned to be built for the agency. But this is a time-consuming operation and rather expensive one. The Federal Fisheries Agencies aims for construction of three new vessels for ecosystem monitoring, but so far allocations from government is scarce. The Agency has got only 900 million rubles (€12 million) for a ship design study, according to local news.