The UK Government has selected Cammell Laird shipyard to build a £200m polar research ship.
The vessel will be operated for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
When it enters service in 2019, the vessel will replace the current UK polar vessels RRS James Clark Ross and the RRS Ernest Shackleton.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This £200m investment secures the UK’s position as a world leader in polar research and provides a major boost to shipbuilding in the north-west.”
Designed by naval architects Houlder, the ship will accommodate up to 60 researchers and technical support staff.
The vessel will feature a helicopter-deck and a scientific moon pool, in addition to conventional over-side deployment capabilities.
It will have the capability to operate in both Antarctica and the Arctic, for up to 60 days in sea-ice, enabling scientists to gather more observations and data.
Robotic submarines and marine gliders will collect data on ocean conditions and marine biology.
The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills unveiled plans for the new polar research vessel in April 2014, and tenders were received from 28 shipyards subsequently.
Eight builders, including Babcock, Cammell, Hyundai Heavy Industries (South Korea), Sembawang (Singapore), Vard Group (Norway, and Freire (Spain) were shotlisted. Daewoo (South Korea) and Fincantieri (Italy), who were part of the shortlisted companies, withdrew from the competition.
Cammell Laird CEO John Syvret said: “The new contract, which will be finalised later this year, is expected to secure 400 jobs at Cammell Laird and a further 100 jobs within the local supply chain.”
The shipyard is expected to begin the construction of the new ship in mid-2016.
Upon delivery, the new vessel will join UK’s long line of Royal Research Ships, including the RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook.
Image: An example of a polar research ship. Photo: courtesy of Cammell Laird.