NERC's new £200 million polar research ship contract signed by Cammell Laird

23 November 2015

The deal has been sealed for a major marine and engineering services company to start work on a new £200 million polar research ship for NERC.

Contract signing

NERC Chief Operating Officer Paul Fox and Cammell Laird Chief Executive John Syvret CBE at the contract signing in Birkenhead.

World-famous shipyard Cammell Laird in Birkenhead saw off international competition to build the state-of-the-art vessel, which will help maintain the UK's position at the forefront of climate and ocean research.

Bosses met to sign the contract late on Friday 20 November and detailed design will get underway immediately. Cammell Laird is expected to cut steel in June 2016 and deliver the next-generation polar research vessel ready for operation by NERC's British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in 2019.

NERC Chief Operating Officer Paul Fox met with Cammell Laird Chief Executive John Syvret CBE to seal the deal in Birkenhead.

Mr Syvret said the agreement with NERC will secure around 500 jobs for local people, boosting the economy in the region.

The research vessel will operate in both Antarctica and the Arctic, and will be able to endure up to 60 days in sea-ice to enable scientists to gather more observations and data.

The ship will be the first British-built polar research vessel with a helideck to open up new locations for science and will be one of the most sophisticated floating research laboratories operating in the polar regions.

Cammell Laird was selected by NERC through a full competitive procurement process. NERC receives around £330 million annually to invest in environmental science research in the UK.

NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

This new research ship, which is expected to become operational in 2019, will be equipped with on-board laboratory facilities and will be capable of deploying robotic technologies to monitor environmental changes to the polar oceans and will help UK scientists continue to lead the world in understanding our polar regions.

Changes in both the Antarctic and Arctic marine ecosystems affect the UK's environment and economy, particularly in industries such as fishing and tourism. The Natural Environment Research Council funds polar research so that, as a nation, we can develop policies to adapt to, mitigate or live with environmental change.

This new polar ship will be a platform for a broad range of science, researching subjects from oceanography and marine ecology to geophysics.

Chief Executive Mr Syvret said winning the contract showed that British industry, given a level playing field, can be internationally competitive. He said:

Signing this contract is another great day and proud moment for myself and the company. It is tremendous news for Merseyside and the UK maritime industry. It is further a fantastic endorsement of the world-class skills and experience of our workforce and the calibre of our facilities which are among the best in Europe. We must thank our MP Frank Field for his unwavering support for Cammell Laird being a driver of long term employment for people of all academic backgrounds as well as a wealth creator for the economy. In addition, we would like to thank the Chancellor George Osborne for recognising that Cammell Laird is a champion brand for British industry and that we can play a key role in the development of the Northern Powerhouse driving growth in marine engineering, and the renewable and civil nuclear energy markets.

Robotic submarines and marine gliders will collect data on ocean conditions and marine biology and deliver it to scientists working in the ship's on-board laboratories. Airborne robots and on-board environmental monitoring systems will provide detailed information on the surrounding polar environment.

Cammell Laird Managing Director Linton Roberts said the new contract is expected to secure 400 jobs at Cammell Laird and a further 100 jobs within the local supply chain. He said Cammell Laird invests heavily in its apprenticeship scheme and would plan to recruit 60 apprentices throughout the term of the contract. He said:

The new vessel will be yard hull number 1390 and with its combined science and logistics capability will be one of the most technologically advanced commercial ships ever constructed in the UK. Cammell Laird is well prepared for this project due to the extensive experience we have gained over recent years when delivering large blocks of our Navy's flagships, the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, as well as important new commercial vessels for Western Ferries and Strangford Lough. Our numerous and highly complex service life extension projects for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary have also given us invaluable experience in integrating and commissioning a wide variety of relevant new technologies. We are very excited to be working with NERC and BAS to deliver a world class British built flagship to support world class British polar science.

Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC media office
01793 411939