Association Technique Maritime et Aéronautique

Numéro : 2767 - Year : 2021

Innovatives research ships: from the l’ANDRE MALRAUX to the ALFRED MERLIN

Michel L’HOUR - Ancien Directeur du DRASSM- Marseille- France

Jean-Charles NAHON  - Ancien Directeur Général MAURIC- Marseille-France

François SÉBILO - Directeur Général MAURIC- Marseille-France

Sébastien GRALL - Directeur iXblue Shipyard- La Ciotat- France


Since the beginning of the 20th century, humans have exercised an increasing influence on the ocean floor. One of the DRASSM missions is to ensure its inventory and preservation through underwater Archeology. This mission is becoming more and more important and requires significant resources. After 40 years of service, the ship L'Archeonaute has given way to the André Malraux. Technology has advanced, underwater archeology and the Malraux reflects this: a composite built vessel, with diesel electric propulsion, multi-beam sounder, dynamic positioning, ROV implementation. With a length of 36 m and a range of 2000 NM, the Malraux is however only a first step and does not allow the DRASSM to intervene in the overseas departments and throughout the huge French maritime space. A new vessel is therefore being considered with the ambition of pushing further the technical possibilities and innovating to offer a concept capable of competing with larger steel vessels. The NESSIE, aka “Alfred Merlin" is the largest professional composite vessel admissible under current SOLAS regulations. With a length of 46 m, it features innovative composite technology, and optimized seakeeping through its hull form and stabilization devices. It clearly marks a transition to the era of robots and computers. It has a transatlantic range to reach “Outre-Mer” areas, with a survey electronics capable of mapping the bottom down to 200 m for the multibeam and 1000 m for the side-scan sonar and the magnetometer. It can use ROVs and deep robots to work on wrecks down to 2500 m deep. It aims to perform as well as large vessels for much lower CAPEX and OPEX. Its creators hope it will pioneer a new generation of exploration vessels.


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