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RRS Ernest Shackleton

RRS Ernest Shackleton

RRS Ernest Shackleton was returned to her owners, Norwegian shipping company G C Rieber Shipping on 30 April 2019, after 20 years of polar duties for BAS. Find out more here.

RRS Ernest Shackleton (ES), was primarily a logistics vessel used to transport cargo, fuel and passengers. The ship also has a basic scientific capability and undertakes some research work. During the northern summer, the ES is commercially chartered and usually works in the North Sea.

The ship was built by Kverner Klevin Leirvik A/S, Norway for GC for Rieber Shipping, and launched in 1995 as the MV Polar Queen. She was acquired by BAS in Aug 1999 under a long-term charter arrangement and registered in the Falkland Island on 30 Sep 1999. Her maiden voyage with BAS took place during the 1999/2000 field season. Her renaming as the RRS Ernest Shackleton by Alexandra Shackleton took place on 13 May 2000.

RRS Ernest Shackleton moored against the sea ice at the Brunt ice Shelf near Halley Research Station

The vessel was renamed RRS Ernest Shackleton after the famed polar explorer.

The vessel is ice strengthened and capable of a wide range of logistic tasks as well as having a scientific capability.

She has a cargo tender “Tula” on deck for ship-to-shore transfer of equipment for those occasions when the ship cannot berth alongside.

After 20 years of polar duties for BAS, she returned to her owners, Norwegian shipping company G C Rieber, in April 2019. The vessel will continue her polar service with new owners the Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale (OGS).

Useful documents

Technical data and scientific specification

Some scientific equipment may be installed on board for the duration of a particular scientific cruise and removed at the end. This equipment is not listed here.

Laboratory space

  • Dry lab, with computer flooring, work benches and all required facilities: 45 m²
  • Wet lab, with stainless steel interior and all required facilities: 45 m²
  • Preparations made for installing two container labs. (ISO 20 ft) with connection point to aft research deck area.

Research facilities

  • Telescopic crane at stern: 10 tonnes
  • ROV crane on upper deck 5 tonnes/10 metre-hydraulic and able to pick up from sea level
  • Navigation information system to all lab areas
  • Uncontaminated sea water supply to wet lab
  • Separate HVAC for laboratories
  • Slow speed and position-keeping facilities
  • Track Steering and Dynamic Positioning
  • 12 kHz hydrographic echo sounder – monitor in dry lab
  • Preparations (hull dome) made for installation of bottom mapping system (Simrad EM 12-13 kHz)
  • Sonar room with void sluice valves up to 16 inch

Helicopter facilities

  • Max weight of helicopter: 10 tonnes on wheels
  • Designed for Super Puma
  • Diameter of deck: 18 metres
  • Refuelling, navigation communication and fire fighting equipment to high standards; upper cargo hold to be used as hangar


  • Mess room, day rooms, exercise facilities and sauna
  • Passengers’ laundry facilities
  • Total capacity: 80 persons including crew
  • Fully air conditioned
  • Hi-fog firefighting equipment
  • 37 cabins (1,2,3 and 4-berth)
  • Hospital facilities


  • Computerised engine monitoring – ICS class
  • Navigation and communication equipment to highest standards, including ECDIS, GMDSS and W1 (DnV) classification of bridge


  • Built to the Norwegian Ship Control Rules, Solas and IMO
  • Special Purpose Vessel A534(13) Resolution
  • MOB-Boat. Survival suits for all personnel
  • Fire monitoring and protection including Hi-fog for accommodation and foam guns for helicopter deck
  • Intercom and public address system
  • TV monitoring system to cover most areas of the vessel
  • Safety manuals and QA operations system according to DnV
  • SEP, incorporating IMO-ISM code
  • Double hull construction


  • Equipped with oily water separator, incinerator, garbage compactor and waste water treatment according to Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protocol and MARPOL
  • Fuel oil storage arranged to minimise risk of accidental spills


  • Proven design – model tested in ice tank
  • Inerta 160 – low resistance hull paint
  • Patented propeller and rudder protection
  • Machinery cooling stand-by arrangement
  • De-icing in foreship and superstructure

Cargo logistics

  • Underdeck bale of about 3000 m³
  • Container loading in forward upper hold and on forward hatch
  • Plugs for four reader containers
  • Arctic fuel in ship’s fuel tanks
  • Jet A-1 aviation fuel in separate tanks
  • Aft hatch flush with helicopter deck (for cargo handling)
  • Cargo crane – 30 tonnes at 20-metre outreach
  • Decks prepared for heavy vehicles

Offshore survey

  • Dynamic Positioning – AUT R
  • HPR tracking systems Hi Pap and 410
  • Taut wire, interface to Artemis, DGPS and Fan Beam
  • ROV crane 5 tonnes at 10 metres
  • 12 kHz hydrographic echo sounder
  • Preparations (hull dome) made for installation of bottom mapping system (Simrad EM 12-13 kHz)
  • Telescopic crane at stern: 10 tonnes
  • Two separate stabilising tanks
  • Offshore crane: 50 tonnes at 10 metres

Main particulars

  • L.o.a. 80.0 metres
  • L.p.p. 72.4 m
  • B. mld. 17.0 m
  • Draft 6.15 m
  • Draft (scantl.) 6.85 m
  • Deadweight (at 6.15 m) 1,800 tonnes
  • Fuel oil 1380 m³
  • Freshwater 165 m³
  • Aviation fuel (Jet A-1) 195 m³
  • Consumption: 9.5 tonnes/24 h at 12 knots
  • Consumption: 17 tonnes/24 h at 14 knots (max speed)
  • Endurance: about 130 days/40,000 nautical miles


  • 2 x Bergen Diesel BRM 6 each 2550 kW at 720 rom
  • Single screw C.P. propeller in nozzle from twin output/single output gearbox
  • Azimuth thruster forward as emergency ‘take you home’ propulsion

Electrical power

  • 2 x 2200 kW shaft generators
  • 2 x 600 kW aux. generators
  • 1 x 150 kW emergency generator
  • 450 V – 60 Hz for heavy consumers
  • 230 V – 60 Hz for accommodation/general use
  • 120 V – 60 Hz for lab. space
  • 230 V and 120 V UPS 60 Hz for lab. spaces
  • 230 V and 120 V 60 Hz clean power for lab. spaces
  • 230 V – 50 Hz clean power for lab. spaces

Internal regulations

  • Norwegian ship control rules, SOLAS, IMO and IMO A534 (13) Resolution
  • (Special Purpose Vessels) MARPOL, Antarctic Treaty
  • Environmental Protocol
  • Canadian Arctic Pollution
  • Classed for WORLD WIDE trade

Manouvering, navigation and communication

The vessel is equipped to high standard including:

  • Dynamic positioning and separate joystick
  • Conventional back-up system in wheelhouse and crow’s nest
  • Three radars, two gyro compasses, RDF, helicopter homing beacon, GPS navigation system, wind sensors and log
  • ECDIS digital mapping system with all equipment integrated to DnV W1 approved bridge
  • Navigation echo sounder, navigation sonarm hydrographic echo sounder
  • Communications to GMDSS including satcom., MF/HF and VHF intercom and hailing system
  • TV-monitoring with 20 cameras
A man sitting in front of a computer.

RRS Ernest Shackleton computing facilities

These facilities are on board and available for BAS cruises. They will not necessarily be available to external personnel when the vessel is on hire during North Sea work. Hardware …

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