Skip to main content
Horizons article 14 April 2021

Britain’s new polar research ship

  • Maritime energy transition
  • Digital transformation
Issue 57

The UK’s largest commercial newbuild project for over 30 years has been formally presented with LR certification after a four-year-long construction period.

Britain’s new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough has been awarded LR certification after a four-year-long construction period. The vessel was delivered to Natural Environment Research Council and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) by Cammell Laird Shipbuilders. BAS undertake vital research in the polar regions, leading in polar science and polar operations, addressing issues of global importance and helping society adapt to a changing world.

The highly complex vessel is designed to support science in extreme environments. A wide range of specialist scientific facilities, instruments and laboratories enable scientists to conduct multi-disciplinary sciences to study the ocean, seafloor, ice and atmosphere.

An ice-strengthened hull, designed to break through ice up to one metre thick, and the ability to spend up to 60 days at sea means the RRS Sir David Attenborough can undertake extensive voyages in polar regions. The vessel will spend the northern summer supporting Arctic research cruises and the austral summer in Antarctica carrying out research programmes and bringing people and supplies to BAS research stations.

RRS Sir David Attenborough on the water.
RRS Sir David Attenborough, image by Glenton Media
RRS Sir David Attenborough docked on the water.
RRS Sir David Attenborough, image Richard Turner / British Antarctic Survey

LR’s Marine & Offshore Service Delivery Manager for UK&I, Mike Williams, said “The delivery of RRS Sir David Attenborough marks an important milestone for UK commercial shipbuilding, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. We’re delighted to have worked with Cammell Laird Shipbuilders on this state of the art vessel which highlights LR’s technical experience and expertise.”

British Antarctic Survey Director, Professor Dame Jane Francis, said “Achieving certification is a significant milestone. This gives us assurance that our ship is in a fit and efficient condition, and ready to go to sea. Over the coming months our crew will be conducting sea trials in readiness for our maiden voyage to Antarctica later this year.”

Linton Roberts, Operations Director at Cammell Laird, said “Cammell Laird is immensely proud to have built the RRS Sir David Attenborough; a project which has showcased our shipbuilding capabilities and demonstrates our commitment to sustainability. A great deal of collective expertise and commitment has gone into this build. The Lloyd’s Register team has utilised its technical experience and expertise to support Cammell Laird in delivering one of the most technologically advanced research vessels in the world.”

The vessel is expected to commence polar operations in 2021 after a period of intensive mariner training, testing and trialling the many technical, scientific and operational features and capabilities.

RRS Sir David Attenborough floats on the water.
RRS Sir David Attenborough, image Glenton Media

From our archive