New Delhi: The ministry of earth sciences is testing and developing several new technologies aimed at exploration and mining of ocean depths, including a manned submersible underwater vehicle.

The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in Chennai, under the ministry, is working on some of these technologies.

The institute is working on the design and development of a new crawler-based mining equipment capable of collecting and pumping nodules from depths up to 6,000 metres. Scientists are also working on a flexible riser system for transporting nodules from the ocean floor to the mother ship.

India has a site in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) allotted by the International Sea Bed Authority for exploration and technology development for polymetallic nodule mining.

“On our own shelf, gas hydrates which are solidified methane gas, are lying at certain pressure conditions. Technology is needed to bring them from the depths of the ocean and that is what we are working on. Lot of surveys have been carried out around the coast. If we can use even 10% of what we have, it can fulfil India’s needs for a hundred years," said Satheesh Shenoi, director, NIOT.

The institute is also developing a manned submersible, an underwater vehicle that can carry scientists on board for direct observation and intervention and sampling in deep oceans up to a depth of 6 km. These submersibles will also be used for direct observation of different stages of ocean technology development projects.

“We’re almost in the final stage of approval. The pilot programme for the manned submersible should take place by 2018-19," said Shenoi.