£45 Million Funding For UK’s Flagship Research Vessels

The UK government has announced £45m of funding to maintain its fleet of three research vessels, it announced in a recent press release. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy have awarded the contract to Babcock International’s Rosyth shipyard. The investment is part of the wider National Shipbuilding Strategy.

The three vessels are used to carry out scientific research into the current challenges facing the world, such as pollution and climate change. They are designed to withstand voyages to the remoter areas of ocean such as the tropics and the polar regions.

This helps scientists to understand more about these environments and the way they are responding to climate change. The three ships include the RRS Discovery, RRS James Cook, and RRS Sir David Attenborough, which narrowly avoided being named ‘Boaty McBoatface’ after receiving 124,109 votes in an online poll.

The humorous name was not deemed suitable for a scientific research vessel, but as a compromise, one of the ship’s remotely controlled submersibles was named Boaty McBoatface.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) who ran the poll defended the naming process, arguing that it had raised a greater level of awareness of its aims among the general public. The RSS Sir David Attenborough is one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world, and is operated by the British Antarctic Survey.

Industry and Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani said: “RRS Sir David Attenborough and its maiden voyage to Antarctica inspired the explorer in all of us, venturing into some of the world’s most unforgiving climates, while conducting vital scientific research on pressing global issues like sea level rise and marine biodiversity.”

He added: “This research is invaluable, which is why we are committing the funding needed for the upkeep of these key research vessels, drawing on Rosyth Shipyard’s proven track record of excellent work maintaining UK ships.”

The £45m maintenance contract will provide a boost to the Scottish economy, supporting highly skilled jobs and local suppliers. The contract is for three years, with the option for a two-year extension. Babcock have state of the art facilities at their dock in Rosyth on the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland.

Defence Secretary and Shipbuilding Tsar, Ben Wallace, said: “This is another fantastic example of the National Shipbuilding Strategy delivering for British industry and boosting investment in UK yards.”

He added: “A cornerstone of British shipbuilding, Rosyth is already home to a number of major build and maintenance contracts, bringing a wealth of expertise and experience to the British shipbuilding sector.”

The RSS Sir David Attenborough features a ‘moon pool’ which is a vertical shaft that runs through the centre of the vessel. It is open at each end to enable scientists to lower and recover equipment, which is much safer than deploying it over the sides, especially in choppy or stormy conditions. The hull is strengthened to break through 1m of ice.

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