National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) has developed a Sub-Sea Solids Pump System

India all set for a deep dive into the ocean. A manned submersible to take down a three-member crew is shaping up

India’s ambitions to send humans into the deep sea and explore resources in the depths is gathering momentum. A ‘Manned Submersible’, which can take a three-member scientific crew down below, is taking shape.

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, which has embarked on this project, expects to have an operational vehicle ready in 2-3 years, according to the Secretary, M Rajeevan.

The design for making the submersible from titanium material that will have two hemispheres welded together in the form of a space ship has been made by the ESSO-National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai. “We are working with ISRO, which has expertise in fabricating and designing to accelerate the project development,” Rajeevan told BusinessLine here.

With 95 per cent of the deep sea remaining unexplored, the venture is promising and India can have an early-mover advantage. At present, a few countries, such as the US, Russia, China and Japan are said to possess the technology and submersible. They have also undertaken some expeditions.

The project is part of the overall, long-term “Deep Sea Mission” and efforts to tap into the blue ocean economics. The Ministry has firmed up the Detailed Project Report and a formal approval from the Cabinet is awaited, said Rajeevan, who was here in connection with a review of the laboratories and institutions under the Ministry.

The Department has been conducting surveys for polymetallic nodules and hydrothermal sulphides in volcanic plumes in designated areas of the Indian Ocean with the International Seabed Authority. The Oceanographic Ship, ‘SagarKanya’, has been operating for several years now in the explorations. The targeted depth to be reached is 5-6 km into the sea, where the resource availability, living organisms, environmental conditions, etc, are to be studied. and understood. The development of the Submersible with capacity to carry one pilot and two scientists will be taken up with a joint venture partner. Initially, the Submersible will reach up to a km for preliminary studies.

Recent MoU

NIOT has already developed technology that can help build a remotely operated vehicle with capability to reach 6000 metre depth. It recently signed an MoU with NRDC and the L&T Defence arm, which will build commercial versions. The joint partner for developing the manned submersible will be identified through global tender.