King Edward Point Research Station Modernisation

King Edward Point Research Station Modernisation

A new wharf, dolphin and slipway at King Edward Point Research Station on South Georgia in the sub-Antarctic was completed in May 2020. The new wharf was constructed to accommodate the new UK polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough and to provide continued operational support to the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI).

The new £11 million wharf was commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (UKRI-NERC), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI). King Edward Point is a marine and fisheries research station is owned by the GSGSSI and operated on their behalf by British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

The construction marks the latest milestone for the £140 million UK Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme commissioned by UKRI-NERC.

Construction of King Edward Point Wharf

The new wharf was completed in just 108 days and three weeks ahead of schedule. Two years of meticulous scheduling before construction meant that the placement of every nut and bolt was planned in advance and shipped directly from the UK.

As Technical Advisor to BAS, Ramboll provided the initial concept design and was onsite to supervise the construction, while BAM developed the detailed designs and constructed the new facility, with Sweco acting as BAM’s design lead. Turner & Townsend also provided cost management for the project.

King Edward Point Wharf Construction Milestones

Rodent detection dogs check the cargo on the Billesborg in Teesport in the UK
December 2019: Rodent Detection Dogs inspect the cargo on the MV Billesborg before it leaves the UK


The cargo ship from the UK arrives at King Edward Point with materials for the new wharf
22 January 2020: MV Billesborg completes in journey from the UK. The team unload 1600 tonnes of material, plant and equipment to start work on the wharf’s construction
Group shot of sheet piles installed at King Edward Point
Mid-February 2020: The first sheet piles for the new wharf have been installed
Photo of the slipway being constructed for the new wharf at King Edward Point
March 2020: The new slipway is constructed
Diver Dave Wyatt Burning the Sheet Piles to Level off the Slipway (Credit: Tom Cameron)
April 2020: Diver Dave Wyatt burning the sheet piles to level off the slipway
Billesborg Moored Up at KEP Wharf
8 May 2020: MV Billesborg is one of the first ships to moor at the new wharf in early May – it arrives to decommission the site. Credit: Bav Sasikandarajah


May 2020: The RRS James Clark Ross and MV Pharos SG coming into the new wharf. Credit: Fran Pothecary


Group image of station and construction staff at King Edward Point after successfully completing the wharf.
Mid May 2020: Construction and station staff before they leave South Georgia. Credit: Alan Roper

Benefits of the New King Edward Point Wharf

The UK’s Antarctic infrastructure is being modernised in order to support world-class science for the next generation. The new wharf will enable the RRS Sir David Attenborough to berth and undertake critical environmental research in the waters around South Georgia.

The project was joint funded between the partners: NERC £4million, FCO £4million (through the UK Government CSSF fund), GSGSSI £2.2million and BAS £0.8million

Design Features of the New Wharf

  • Wrap-around design: extending by 6m to the east and west, and 2m to the north and south.
  • T-shaped design, economical and structurally sound.
  • Three mooring points to maximise the position of the vessel for moving cargo on and off ships
  • Sinker anchor helping larger vessels berth safely
  • Mooring Dolphin (marine structures extending out of the water) and walkway will provide safe access for passengers.
  • Extended slipway for small boats to launch and dock in a wide range of tidal and wind conditions.

Protecting the Environment During Construction

  • Sustainable design that wraps around the existing wharf, reducing the impact of construction to the seabed and the quantity of resources and materials needed.
  • Monitoring wildlife around the wharf during the construction, ensuring the environment isn’t harmed by vibrations, noise or dust.
  • Stringent biosecurity processes to prevent any accidental introduction of new animal, insect or plant species to South Georgia.

The King Edward Point Wharf upgrade was part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM) Programme. This long-term programme will enable a world-leading capability to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in the Polar regions.

The aims of the King Edward Point research station modernisation project are to:

  • Enable safe and efficient berthing and mooring of the RRS Sir David Attenborough and other ships and the transfer of personnel and cargo
  • Continued and improved capability for launching, mooring and retrieving small boats including RIBs, workboats and survey boats for research purposes
  • Facilitate the continuous presence of GSGSSI officials on South Georgia

Industry project delivery partners

Our in-house project management, operational and logistics teams are working closely with external partners to deliver the modernisation projects at BAS’s Antarctic research stations.

BAM Nuttall

BAM Nuttall is British Antarctic Survey’s construction partner for the Rothera & Islands modernisation projects.

Graham Hopper

Partnership Operations Director

Lloyd Wickens

Construction Manager

Daan Aldenberg

Project Manager

Stewart Craigie

Design Team Leader

Neil Goulding

Procedures Controller


Ramboll is British Antarctic Survey’s technical advisor, supporting a number of projects in the Antarctic.

Dave Grove

Contract Director

Bruce Wulff

Contract Lead

Kate Bunting

Project Manager – Buildings

Luke Bradley

Discipline Leader – Marine

Tony McGlory

Discipline Leader – MEP

King Edward Point – Project Blog

25 February, 2020 by Joe Corner

Joe Corner, BAS Islands Project Manager, is currently overseeing the redevelopment of King Edward Point wharf on South Georgia Island in the Sub-Antarctic. The project will enable the new UK …

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King Edward Point Research Station

King Edward Point is primarily a marine and  fisheries research station.   Owned by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) and operated by British Antarctic Survey …

RRS Sir David Attenborough

The RRS Sir David Attenborough, commissioned by NERC, built by Cammell Laird for operation by British Antarctic Survey, is one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world.