Multipurpose ship Mellum

Multipurpose ship Mellum. This model was built by Günther Schmidt in a scale of 1:100 and is currently in the depot of the museum.

Multitasking is no problem for a ship like the „Mellum“. Built in 1983 at the Elsflether Werft AG in Elsfleth, she is owned by the Federal Ministry of Transport and operated by the GDWS (German Directorate-General for Waterways and Shipping). Originally, she was intended as a buoy tender to set up and maintain watermarks for the safety of shipping in German territorial waters, both in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. This is why she was named after the North Sea island of Mellum, just like the 1935 buoy tender „Mellum“, but this task is only one of many she has undertaken in her long career. 

The „Mellum“ is also a survey ship. She is designed to control and combat water pollution at sea – especially oil spills. She is capable of coordinating the reconnaissance activities of Dornier 228 LM aircraft, collecting data from them and taking action against the pollution. She is also equipped for other emergencies at sea: Her five firefighting water cannons can be controlled directly from the bridge, enabling her to safely extinguish fires on board ships even in rough seas. She is also a tugboat that can perform salvage operations and tow ships back to safe harbours. In addition, she is equipped for police operations on the high seas. Is that all?

No: the „Mellum“ is also an icebreaker with the so called “Ice Class E3”. In the winter months, she ensures that ships can safely cross the frozen Baltic Sea from the port of Kiel. As you can see, she truly meets the definition of a multi-purpose vessel.

During her long and successful career, she has been constantly overhauled, modernised and upgraded. Nevertheless, she is no longer the most modern ship of her kind. In December 2019, the plan was announced to retire her and two other service vessels. As a replacement, a new class of 3 state-of-the-art service vessels is to be built by the Abeking & Ramussen shipyard near Bremen. These ships will have a helipad and will run exclusively on less polluting LNG (liquefied natural gas).