Operational facilities – RRS Sir David Attenborough

In addition to its scientific role the RRS Sir David Attenborough will support the resupply of the five Antarctic research stations operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

Cargo handling facilities

RRS Sir David Attenborough‘s cargo hold will have a volume of 2,100m³ and will be capable of storing 660m³ of aviation fuel. The flexible design of the cargo hold will allow for efficient stowage of containers and other cargo.

The ship will be equipped with the following cranes to support logistics and scientific operations:

  • Main crane: 50t @18m (use on port side only), 20t @33m (use on either side)
  • Provision crane on helideck: 8t @16m
  • Starboard deck service crane: 8t @8m, 5t @16m, 2t @21m
  • Port deck service crane (5t @16m)
  • Port & starboard side science cranes (3t @16m & [email protected])

It will also be equipped with a stern and a side A-frame (30t), a fold-out platform near the bow fitted with a boom and winch for towing scientific equipment, and several removable bulwarks to allow for deployment of equipment from the aft deck.

Small boating facilities

The new polar ship will be equipped with a workboat and cargo tender, which will be capable of approaching Bird Island and Signy research stations during resupply operations. This is important because the water near these stations is too shallow for the ship to approach. Additionally, there will be a number of small inflatable craft aboard the ship.

Small rigid inflatable boats are used to put scientific field parties ashore

Erebus – The workboat

The RRS Sir David Attenborough’s workboat, known as Erebus, will be used to transport personnel and supplies to and from our island stations as well as undertaking some scientific research. In order to give her operational flexibility between science and logistics, she has a removable transducer pod capable of carrying four transducers for the Simrad EK80 fisheries echo sounder and the Kongsberg EM2040 shallow water multibeam echo sounder system. This acoustic equipment can be used to map the seabed, in some areas Erebus will be used to survey the seabed in shallow waters whilst the RRS Sir David Attenborough carries out concurrent surveys in deeper waters. Erebus also has a hydraulic stern davit and winch that can be fitted when required.  This has a 250kg handling capacity and winch fitted with 500mm of 6mm rope for overside sampling operations.

Terror – The cargo tender

The cargo tender will be used to transfer all the supplies (food, fuel and science equipment) onto land at stations and places that the RRS Sir David Attenborough cannot access. To assist with this work the cargo tender is fitted with a crane that can lift up to 1t loads @ 8m.

Helideck and hangar

The RRS Sir David Attenborough will feature a helideck and hangar capable of supporting up to two small helicopters. These could assist with the deployment of airborne scientific instruments and scientific field parties, or transfer vital equipment to shore in case of fast ice preventing a landing by the ship.

Operating a polar research vessel with helicopter capabilities increases the potential science BAS and its collaborators can support.


The RRS Sir David Attenborough in the virtual wind tunnel

27 October, 2017

The RRS Sir David Attenborough (SDA) just got another step closer to completion as the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA) investigated the aerodynamic performance of Britain’s new polar research vessel using a computer generated ‘virtual wind tunnel’


New polar ship construction milestone

18 August, 2017

A major feat of engineering takes place this week (21 August) as the “stern section” of the new polar research ship for Britain, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, is transported …