The government is planning to purchase another multidisciplinary survey vessel for better exploration of the country's deep-sea areas to find potential stocks of valuable mineral deposits.
The planned 'high-end' Oceanographic Research Vessel (ORV) would be larger than the previous one. The ORV is likely to be 100-110 metre-long, and bear a price tag of around Tk 10 billion, insiders said.
Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB) has already formulated a development project proposal for procurement of the survey vessel. It has been sent to Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources for further review and approval, a high official told FE this week.
GSB has proposed a five-yearlong project, spanning from mid-2017 to mid-2022. The total cost of the project would be around Tk 16 billion, and the entire amount would be funded by the government, he also said.
Several European countries have already shown their interest to sell such research vessel to Bangladesh, he added.
Last year, Department of Fisheries purchased a 37.8 metre-long multipurpose research vessel at a cost of Tk 655 million from Malaysia to assess fisheries and other marine resources within the country's maritime boundary.
However, the type of vessel that has now been proposed by GSB is likely to be around three times larger in length. It can be used for exploration of territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles, exclusive economic zones up to 200 nautical miles, and onwards up to 350 nautical miles in the Bay of Bengal, insiders said.
According to experts, marine investigation is growingly becoming important for the country, as the Bay of Bengal has been receiving a huge volume of sediments through rivers like Ganges-Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna.
Various researches suggest that these river systems annually carry more than one billion tonnes of sediments, often enriched with valuable minerals as discovered in beach deposits.
Moreover, physiochemical and biochemical processes can also produce mineable mineral deposits and nodules enriched with iron, manganese, carbonates, cobalt and nickel, the energy ministry official said.
Apart from oil and gas, there is a possibility of finding gas hydrates, which will be a major source of energy in the future, he added.
Recent amicable solutions of maritime boundaries with India and Myanmar have created the opportunity of exploring the country's marine territory to collect geological data of the coasts and sea-beds, the ministry officials noted.
They added that the neighbouring countries like India and Myanmar have started marine research since 1960s with their own research ships, and India has discovered poly-metallic nodule in the Indian Ocean through such offshore survey.
When asked about the necessity of procuring a large research vessel, the officials opined that the large platform is required for conducting surveys and research works in the deep-sea as well as accommodating research labs and various other facilities.
"In addition, the Bay of Bengal remains rough to very rough for almost three-fourth of the year. Therefore, the ORV needs to be adequately large to be safe and capable of sustaining in inclement weather and rough sea," said an official of GSB.
"Also, during prolonged period of survey and research, the vessel may need emergency patient evacuation along with supply of essential medicine and spares," he added.
According to a feasibility study, conducted earlier on the project, it would cost the country around US$ 100,000 per day without fuel, in case it goes for renting a vessel instead of purchasing one. In addition, there are various equipments in the vessel that are subject to additional costs.
"Therefore, purchasing a vessel would be a much more economical option for us in the long run," the official further said.
Better understanding of the sea dynamics will also help the country to cope with the future climate change and sea-level rise as well as to work for their mitigation.
A complete database of different aspects of sea-bed in the maritime area, like - geology, geomorphology, engineering geology, geo-resource potentiality and sea water characterization etc, will be developed through this survey vessel, said the officials concerned.
All these data will be helpful for geo-characterization, mineral resource identification, submarine cable layout, exploration of gas hydrates, and construction of deep seaport, oil and gas platform, subsea gas or pipeline, they added.