The UK Government has officially awarded a contract to Cammell Laird shipyard to build a polar research ship worth £200m to be operated for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
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 shipyard is expected to begin the construction of the new ship in June 2016 and deliver the next-generation polar research vessel ready for operation by 2019.
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.
BAS director professor Jane Francis said: "This new research ship will be a tremendous asset to the UK polar science community. Our science and operational teams have been working closely with research colleagues from Britain’s leading universities and institutes to help create a world-leading science facility.
"We very much look forward to seeing our ideas become a reality.
"Crucially, the ship will have the capability to deploy advanced technologies being developed currently in the UK.
"These will allow us to capture new ocean and ice data from places that would otherwise be inaccessible.
"This is a very exciting time for UK polar science."
The deal is expected to secure 400 jobs at Cammell Laird and a further 100 jobs within the local supply chain.
Image: Officials during the contract signing. Photo: courtesy of CAMMELL LAIRD.