RRS Sir David Attenborough begins sea trials

Earlier this week the UK’s most advanced polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough,  left Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead to begin two weeks of technical sea trials.

Operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), it’s said the new polar ship will transform UK research in the polar regions, with its missions being critical to understanding and making sense of our changing climate.

“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 investigate the dramatic changes in the polar oceans,” says Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey. “This exciting moment marks a major milestone in the construction as so many people have worked tirelessly over the last four years to bring our new ship to fruition. As we seek to find answers to the current climate crisis, this ship will take us to the ends of the Earth to seek answers and to help us understand our future world.”

Following a short trip across the Mersey to the Liverpool cruise terminal for crew familiarisation, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will now spend 14 days undergoing technical trials off the coast of North Wales. The shipyard engineers and BAS mariners will put the ship through its paces, performing operational checks on the propulsion, steering, engineering and navigation systems.

Image courtesy of BAS

When technical tests are complete, the BAS ship crew will take over and spend 50 days intensive training at Holyhead Port before embarking on operational and scientific equipment trials around the Irish Sea.  The team will test anchoring, manoeuvring, dynamic positioning, and helideck landing.  Early next year the ship will undertake ice trials in the Arctic, and in November 2021 make its maiden voyage to Antarctica.

The commencement of sea trials is a major milestone in the four-year build programme. From laying the keel in October 2016, to the hull launch in July 2018 and the Royal ceremonial naming in September 2019, more than 1,300 local personnel, 70 apprentices and many hundreds of specialist subcontractors and suppliers have been involved in constructing this 15,000 tonne vessel.

David McGinley, Chief Executive Officer of Cammell Laird Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders and Atlantic and Peninsula Services says: “In conjunction with NERC and BAS, Cammell Laird has demonstrated that the UK is at the forefront of the global shipbuilding industry and we stand ready to deliver future shipbuilding projects here on the River Mersey.

“This vessel is a true celebration of British expertise – from the team who built it right through to the scientific community that will call this ship home. The RRS Sir David Attenborough is the single biggest and most ambitious build in the history of Cammell Laird and it’s an incredibly proud moment to see her embark on sea trials.”

The ship will be formally hand over to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) by the shipyard in November.

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