Research vessel

British maritime engineering company Cammell Laird has chosen Rolls-Royce to design the future UK polar research ship, RSS David Attenborough.

Under the £30m deal, Rolls-Royce will also provide machinery and equipment for the vessel.

Post construction, the 128m long ship will be christened RRS Sir David Attenborough, and will be built in a huge modular construction hall at Cammell Laird’s site in Birkenhead, Merseyside, UK.

“This new polar research ship will keep UK scientists at the forefront of climate and ocean research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.”

The vessel is a part of the UK Government’s £200m investment to reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in polar research, as well as bolstering the shipbuilding industry in the north west of the country.

Commissioned by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC ), the research vessel will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in 2019 to conduct oceanographic and other scientific work in both the Antarctic and Arctic, as well as transporting supplies to Antarctic research stations.

NERC chief operating officer Paul Fox said: "This new polar research ship will keep UK scientists at the forefront of climate and ocean research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.

"This new state-of-the-art platform will support a broad range of science; including oceanography, marine ecology and geophysics.

"Equipped with on-board laboratory facilities and capable of deploying robotic technologies the new ship will enable scientists to carry out research programmes that address urgent societal issues such as the need to understand the impact of polar ice melt and its effect on climate, global ocean circulation, sea level, and the functioning of the ecosystems that regulate the planet’s life support systems."

Rolls Royce’s design will be based on the Polar Code 4 ice class, offering a high endurance factor, with the capacity to be self-sufficient in fuel and supplies on voyages up to 19,000nm.

The vessels will be propelled by Rolls-Royce’s diesel electric propulsion system, powered by the new Bergen B33:45 engines (two nine-cylinder and two six-cylinder engines), and equipped with two 4.5cm diameter Rolls-Royce controllable pitch propellers (CPP).

The engine and the propulsion system will allow the vessel to navigate through metre thick ice with extremely low underwater radiated noise, without interfering with the survey equipment or disturbing marine mammals and fish shoals.

The vessels will be equipped with Rolls-Royce deck handling systems to support tasks including the towing of scientific equipment for subsea acoustic surveys, using up to 12,000m of wire, or deploying equipment over the side of the ship or through a moonpool to collect seawater and seabed samples at depths of up to 9,000m.

In its supply vessel mode, the UT 851 PRV will be able to transport fuels and containerised cargo. It will also have a helideck with the capacity to operate two helicopters.

A competition was launched earlier this year to name the vessel, and the winner of a public vote was the joke suggestion of Boaty McBoatface. Organisers instead opted for RRS Sir David Attenborough, with the name Boaty McBoatface going to one of the vessel’s subsea ROVs.

Rolls Royce is also designing Norwegian Institute of Marine Research’s polar research vessel, currently being built in Italy.

Image: An artist’s impression of research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough. Photo: courtesy of Rolls-Royce plc.