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Cammell Laird welcomes Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for Royal naming of RRS Sir David Attenborough

posted on September 26, 2019 categories In The Community, Project News

The naming ceremony will be live-streamed from 13:30 on the BAS website:

  • Royal Ceremonial Naming of RRS Sir David Attenborough – Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; Sir David Attenborough to attend
  • 3-day public celebration
  • Polar Explorer STEM primary school children will meet Royal guests
  • Commemorative coin minted
  • Poet Laureate Simon Armitage creates new work to mark the naming
  • Business Breakfast for industry and science

The UK’s new polar research ship is formally named the RRS Sir David Attenborough today by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  The royals will follow tradition by smashing a bottle of champagne against the hull.   Special guest Sir David Attenborough will attend.

A three-day public celebration, hosted at the shipyard by British Antarctic Survey and Cammell Laird, aims to inspire and inform people about polar science, engineering and technology – and why it matters to everyday life.  The event is focussed on our future – young people will play a role in the celebrations.  Primary school students from the STEM Polar Explorer Programme will meet the Duke and Duchess as they take a private tour of the ship.  Local primary schools that have been studying the Antarctic and climate change will take part in a ‘penguin parade’.

Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) – part of UK Research and Innovation, built by Cammell Laird and operated by British Antarctic Survey, this new research platform will transform how ship-borne science is conducted in the Polar Regions.  It is part of a major Government polar infrastructure investment programme (a total of £300M) designed to keep Britain at the forefront of world-leading research in Antarctica and the Arctic.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore says:

“This is an incredibly exciting moment in our scientific history. The RRS Sir David Attenborough will allow us to make a major leap forward in our understanding of the environment.

“As the first G7 nation to legislate for net zero carbon emissions, it is vital that we invest in scientific efforts that will help us deliver on this. From our world leading capability in earth observation satellites to our ground-breaking research into plastic-eating enzymes, the UK continues to lead by example as a truly green economy.

“This new vessel is an incredible feat of engineering. But it also recognises one of our most respected and admired figures – Sir David Attenborough. Nobody has done more than David to spread the message that we should understand and protect our planet, and I’m delighted that he is being honoured in this naming ceremony.”

Professor Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair NERC, says:

“This is an exciting day for all of us as we celebrate the naming of the RRS Sir David Attenborough. Today’s ceremony marks the start of an important era that will help ensure world-class polar and deep ocean science in the decades to come.  While the Polar Regions might seem remote to the UK, it is vital to understand that the poles are where we first see the impact of global environmental changes.”


Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey, says:

“This magnificent ship will take UK scientists deep into the heart of the ice-covered polar seas. With state-of-the-art technology they will discover how drastically the polar oceans and the ice have been changed by our actions.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere warns that the oceans are warming and becoming more acidic with CO2, glaciers are melting and sea level is rising across the planet, and the polar bears and penguins are losing their homes. This ship will take us to the ends of the Earth to help us understand our future world.”

Sir Mark Walport is Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation. He says:

“The RRS Sir David Attenborough is one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world and will transform how ship-borne science is conducted in the Polar Regions. It will provide scientists with state-of-the-art facilities to undertake crucial research into the impact of global change on our oceans, marine biodiversity and climate, and ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of polar science.”

Cammell Laird CEO John Syvret CBE, says:

“This is a historic day for Cammell Laird, and todays naming of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, arguably one of the most complex vessels afloat, underpins our re-emergence to the premier league of the global shipbuilding community.  It has taken 20 years to regenerate this infrastructure, capability and capacity, and I am extremely proud of all who have worked tirelessly to achieve today’s milestone.  This vessel represents our greatest challenge to date, and I thank NERC and British Antarctic Survey for their trust and ongoing support to deliver this iconic vessel.  This is the “Pride of Merseyside” and my special thanks go out to our workforce, TU, management and staff, together with our supply chain and all their families for their dedication and commitment to the project and the company.”

Broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough says:

“This is the third milestone event that I have attended during the construction of this superb ship, and I have enjoyed watching progress from keel-laying till now.  It is a remarkable engineering achievement.

We all need this ship.  Our world is changing and it’s clear that people around the world – especially the young – are becoming more and more concerned about a climate catastrophe.  But human beings are resilient and skilful.  If we pay attention to the scientific knowledge that those who will sail in this ship will gather, then we will stand a much better chance of finding a way to deal with what lies ahead.”

A new work – ‘Ark’ – by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage CBE, commemorates the naming.   The poem will be premiered in front of thousands of people gathered on the shipyard quayside to watch the ceremony.

The British Pobjoy Mint has created a commemorative £2 coin featuring the ship and a 50p coin featuring the autonomous submersible Boaty McBoatface.

A business breakfast event – Meeting the 1.5 degree challenge.  Can innovation in low carbon technologies create a safe and sustainable future for polar buildings and ships?

Chaired by: Financial Times’s award-winning associate editor and business columnist Pilita Clark.

The naming ceremony kicks off a three-day immersive festival of science, engineering and ship building. ‘Ice Worlds’ will bring the Polar Regions to life with over 20 exhibition stands. The festival will be adjacent to the RRS Sir David Attenborough in the Cammell Laird shipyard.

Friday 27 September is set aside for pre-registered schools.

Saturday 28 September is a day for families. A few tickets are still available here:



For more information about the RRS Sir David Attenborough visit:

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs.

British Antarctic Survey is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation

For more information visit @basnews


The Natural Environment Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new organisation that brings together the UK’s seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England to maximise the contribution of each Council and create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish. The vision is to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation.


UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.


Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.


Cammell Laird is one of the most famous names in British industry.

The company was founded in 1828 and is based on the River Mersey in the Liverpool City Region on the west coast of Britain. The company’s Birkenhead site expands across 130 acres and includes four dry docks, a large modular construction hall and extensive covered workshops. It is also at the centre of a marine and engineering cluster with easy access to support services classification societies and port state authorities.