Merseyside beats global competition to build £200m Polar research ship
The Government has today (October 12) announced that Cammell Laird has been selected as the preferred bidder to build a state-of-the-art £200m polar research ship that will maintain the UK’s position firmly at the forefront of climate and ocean research.
The decision follows a 12-month competitive tender process that involved bids from companies in the UK, Europe and the Far East. The winning project will secure jobs and apprenticeships and provide a significant economic boost to Merseyside.
The Birkenhead shipyard is expected to cut steel in autumn 2016 and deliver the next generation polar research vessel ready for operation by 2019.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “As a One Nation Government we are investing in science capital on a record scale. 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.
“Britain has long been a pioneer in ocean science, shipbuilding and manufacturing. Cammell Laird’s success in this competition is testament to this expertise and our commitment to continue pushing the boundaries in marine science.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: “In last year’s Budget I committed £200m to help put Britain at the forefront of polar research, and I’m delighted to see the preferred bidder is a UK company in the heart of our Northern Powerhouse.
“This will help secure vital jobs and apprenticeships in the North West and also make sure Britain stays at the cutting edge of polar research.”
Cammell Laird Chief Executive 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. Cammell Laird has a very successful apprenticeship scheme and would plan to recruit 60 apprentices throughout the term of the contract. Being selected as the preferred bidder in a global tender to undertake such an exciting and major infrastructure project is fantastic news for our workforce, the local region and the UK. We look forward to helping the UK explore the depths of the ocean and push the boundaries of UK science. ”
The new polar research ship, which will operate in both Antarctica and the Arctic, will be able to endure up to 60 days in sea-ice to enable scientists to gather more observations and data.
The ship will be the first British-built polar research vessel with a heli-deck to open up new locations for science and will be one of the most sophisticated floating research laboratories operating in the Polar Regions.
Tonne for tonne, the UK will have the most advanced oceanographic research vessel fleet in the world.
Robotic submarines and marine gliders will collect data on ocean conditions and marine biology and deliver it to scientists working in the ship’s on-board laboratories.
Airborne robots and on-board environmental monitoring systems will provide detailed information on the surrounding polar environment.
Funding for the new polar research ship was announced in April 2014 as part of the Government’s science capital programme. Cammell Laird has been selected by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through a full competitive procurement process.
NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said: “This new research ship, which is expected to become operational in 2019, will be equipped with onboard laboratory facilities and will be capable of deploying robotic technologies to monitor environmental changes to the polar oceans and will help UK scientists continue to lead the world in understanding our polar regions.
“Changes in both the Antarctic and Artic marine ecosystems affect the UK’s environment and economy, particularly in industries such as fishing and tourism. The Natural Environment Research Council funds polar research so that as a nation, we can develop policies to adapt to, mitigate or live with environmental change.
“This new polar ship will be a platform for a broad range of science, researching subjects from oceanography and marine ecology to geophysics.”
The new vessel follows in a long line of Royal Research Ships, including the RRS Discovery which today (12 October) departs from London to Southampton after docking on the Thames to mark NERC’s 50th anniversary.
The new ship will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and will be available to the whole UK research community, including for postgraduate training.
Director of British Antarctic Survey 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.”