State-of-the-art research vessel visits Liverpool

4 October 2016

In a unique celebration of the best of British environmental science, NERC will showcase one of the world's most advanced research ships in Liverpool this week.

RRS Discovery arriving in Liverpool

The state-of-the-art, 100-metre-long research vessel RRS Discovery arrived into the city on the morning of 4 October, and demonstrated the capability of her hi-tech azimuth propulsion systems by rotating 360 degrees in the middle of the river before she came alongside the cruise terminal. She was accompanied into Liverpool by jet-spraying tug boats.

The ship will be moored on Liverpool Waterfront from 4-7 October as part of a series of free showcase events in the North West taking place throughout October, called Into the blue. This is only the second time she has visited the city.

Operated on NERC's behalf by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) for the UK's marine science community, Discovery provides access to the global ocean from the tropics to the poles, underpinning the UK's leadership in marine science. As well as conducting more traditional marine research, she can deploy NOC's innovative underwater equipment such as the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Isis and Autosub autonomous submersibles.

The chief executive of NERC, Professor Duncan Wingham, said:

We want to show how environmental science is relevant to the lives of people in the North West and beyond by bringing examples of this science right to them, and by shining a spotlight on the heritage and contributions of environmental science, innovation and impact across the North. Come to the waterfront and have a look at our world-class research ship, RRS Discovery to witness the ship and her capabilities, and find out more about our science for yourself.

NERC is keen to show Discovery to the public, schools and businesses in the North West and to demonstrate some of the best environmental research she's involved in, which makes use of the unique marine science equipment she has on board. The ship is used by the country's leading scientists for a range of cutting-edge studies, including weather, deep-ocean and climate research.

Into the blue comprises nine days of events taking place in both Liverpool and Manchester. The UK's Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) aircraft will take centre stage at Manchester Airport from 25-29 October and will be accompanied by a huge range of exhibits that showcase the best of British environmental science. The specially adapted BAe 146-301 aircraft is the UK's front line for investigating air pollution, weather patterns and cloud formations.

The RRS Discovery docked at the Liverpool Waterfront at 08:30 on 4 October. In total, around 1350 people are booked to come on board the ship during the week. All tours are now fully booked, but you can admire the ship on Liverpool Waterfront on Princes Parade. She will be illuminated at nightfall, and will leave the Liverpool dock around 16:50 on Friday 7 October.

Although she has visited Liverpool before, she has never visited with some of the UK's amazing marine facilities equipment or showcased the science she undertakes on behalf of the UK and its scientific community.

NERC-funded research in the North has helped to:

  • predict tides for businesses using the Port of Liverpool
  • secure high quality, safe drinking water for millions of households
  • enable businesses to reduce flood risks
  • improve the Blackpool coast's bathing water quality
  • support fire and rescue services in reducing wildfires in the Peak District.

After Into the blue Liverpool, RRS Discovery returns to her home base of Southampton before heading to Tenerife to conduct sea trials.

Further information

Tamera Jones
NERC media office
01793 411561
07917 557215


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. Into the Blue is a series of free showcase events in the North West taking place throughout October which aims to engage the public with environmental science that affects their lives, within four themes: Air, Water, Energy and Health, through displaying two of NERC's largest scientific assets, our ships (Discovery and Sir David Attenborough) and the FAAM research aircraft alongside exhibits from NERC-funded researchers presenting environmental science in a way that focuses on its relevance and everyday use.

3. To book tickets for Into the blue Manchester, visit the Into the blue website - external link.

4. How the North West has benefitted from NERC-funded research:

Tidal predictions in the Coast of Liverpool
The Port of Liverpool rely on NERC tidal data to enable operators to calculate the times that ships of different hull sizes can be safely brought into harbour, maximising port usage by costal and marine businesses. (More info: NOC case study NOC13 - 'Tidal and wave data applications to support coastal and offshore users'.)

Improving bathing water quality around Blackpool
Models of water processes and quality in the area around Blackpool, developed through NERC-funded research, have been used by the Environment Agency to establish the cause of frequent quality non-compliance of bathing water at Lytham St Annes. The models were used as key evidence during a public enquiry, which resulted in £114 million of sewerage upgrades in Preston to bring significant environmental improvements to coastal bathing waters, including Blackpool beaches, and designated shellfish beds located within the Ribble Estuary. (More info: Improving Bathing Water Quality around Blackpool - external link)

Helping secure high-quality, safe drinking water
Water in the North West can be discoloured by peat. Yorkshire Water used NERC-research into a new way of preventing discoloration at the source to change its approach and ensure the water colour meets strict standards. This helped keep water bills as low as possible while securing the highest quality and safest drinking water possible for the 1·8 million households and 13,000 businesses supplied by Yorkshire Water. (More info: Water colour research yields economic benefits for the water industry - external link)

Supporting businesses to reduce flood risks
Yorkshire-based consultancy JBA Risk Management have benefited from NERC-funded research on an innovative approach to flood modelling. It has enabled major growth of the business, resulting in the direct employment of 50 people and generating revenues of £3 million per year. It has had wider impact in allowing insurers to qualify more than 600,000 properties in flood risk areas for insurance. (More info: Growth of flood risk consultancy 'JBA Risk management Ltd' - external link)

Helping to prevent wildfires in the Peak District
NERC-funded research and knowledge exchange activities at Manchester University has led to wildfire being recognised as a significant UK hazard. It has also had a regional impact on fire and rescue services and moorland management in the Peak District, where it is estimated to prevent a major fire a year - each costing up to £1 million and resulting in traffic disruption, negative impacts on air quality/health and loss of amenity.