2 December, 2020 News stories

Britain’s new polar ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, has been handed over from Cammell Laird shipyard to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

A group of people standing next to a body of water
Captain Ralph Stevens, mariner Paula Munoz and BAS Director of Operations Simon Garrod fly the blue ensign flag which carries the defaced with the shield from the coat of arms from British Antarctic Territory. Photo: Capt Will Whatley

Operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the new polar ship will transform UK research in the polar regions. Its missions will be critical for understanding and making sense of our changing climate.

Crews from BAS will spend the next 50 days undergoing intensive training at Holyhead Port, familiarising themselves with the ship and its equipment. The ship will then embark on further operational and scientific trials where 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.

SDA arrives in Holyhead. Photo: Holyhead Shipping Ltd, Photographer Al Disley Images

Nigel Bird, Director of Major Programmes at NERC said:

“The handover of the RRS Sir David Attenborough marks the end of the beginning. Seven years on from when the design process began, we have the keys to one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world, and I want every person who has contributed to this extraordinary ship to know how proud UKRI-NERC are.”

A group of people standing in a room
ERC Programme SRO Nigel Bird cutting the cake. Photo: Rich Turner

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of BAS, said:

“This exciting moment is a major milestone for us, and a big moment for all those who have spent the past four years working tirelessly to build this incredible vessel. We’ve seen it evolve from a pile of steel into this amazing state-of-the-art ship that’s going to allow us to do science that we’ve never done before.”


David McGinley, Chief Executive Officer of Cammell Laird Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders and Atlantic and Peninsula Services said:

“This handover is the final milestone in what has been the most ambitious project in Cammell Laird’s recent history and we are proud that a vessel built here in the UK will contribute so much to our understanding of climate change.

“It’s also an important opportunity to reflect on the amount of collective expertise, commitment and sheer tenacity that has gone into this build. We’ve worked closely with NERC and BAS throughout and have shown that Cammell Laird is at the forefront of the global shipbuilding industry and ready to deliver future shipbuilding projects here on the River Mersey.  We wish RRS Sir David Attenborough good luck and bid her a very, very fond farewell.”