Marine facilities - How to apply

Scientists who have secured funding from NERC, from a non-NERC peer-reviewed source (eg the EU or the US National Science Foundation) or from commissioned research, can bid to NERC for 'free at the point of use' access to its ships, equipment and support facilities. If you have funding from a non-peer-reviewed source, please see our policy and guidance section for details of eligibility assessment.

The NERC marine facilities planning cycle contains some of the most important information for applicants to ensure applications are made at the right time and all the necessary paperwork is completed.

  1. Submit Ship-time & Marine Equipment (SME) application form

    All applicants for NERC marine facilities must submit an online Ship-time & Marine Equipment (SME) application form by creating a cruise profile through the Marine Facilities Planning website. This form will provide NERC with details of the ship and equipment you wish to use, when you wish to use it, and how you intend to fund your research. All costings and cruise programming will be based on the information provided on this form, so it must be completed as accurately as possible.

    Where an SME is linked to an individual NERC grant application, this should be made explicit both in the grant proposal and on the SME.

  2. Policy compliance and funding application

    1. Submit policy/risk management documents (if necessary, eg Moorings Policy) 2 months before funding application submission.

    2. Apply for funding
      Deadline will vary depending on chosen funding route and call closing date.
      NERC funding information

      Discovery science (standard grants; large grants)

      The SME must be complete and submitted past 'Edit SME' by the time the grant application (Je-S) form is submitted. The SME profile number should be included on the grant application form under 'Services and Facilities'. The grant application is not valid if the SME form is not complete, approved and progressed (ie is still at the 'Edit SME' stage).

      Please note that SME forms that require superstructure costing (ie those associated with Large Grant applications) must be submitted at least 2 months before the grant application deadline in order to provide sufficient time for the costing process to be carried out. Marine Planning, Swindon (Natalie Clark) should be notified of any SMEs that require costing.

      Research Programmes

      SMEs must be submitted by the date specified in the specific call documents Marine Planning (Natalie Clark) should be notified if the SME requires costing.

      National Capability

      SMEs can be submitted at any time, but if a costing is required they should be submitted by 1 February, 2 months before the marine facilities programming deadline of 1 April. Marine Planning (Natalie Clark) should be notified if the SME requires costing.

  3. Confirm funding on online SME application

    If your funding is approved

    If you are successful in securing funding, your SME must be updated to reflect this immediately. Cruises will not be considered for programming at all unless the SME has been moved past the 'confirm funding' stage on the Marine Facilities Planning website and will not be considered for the next financial year if this stage is not complete by 1 April.

    If your funding is not approved

    If your funding application is not successful and your SME is no longer valid, it should be archived on the Marine Facilities Planning website as soon as possible to avoid any confusion at the start of the programming process. Please feel free to create a copy of your SME for future reference, it will no longer be possible to reuse an SME, a new SME will be required for future funding applications.

    Deadline: 1 April (for inclusion in the following financial year's programme)

  4. Cruise programming

    1 April onwards.

    Following submission of an SME, confirmation of funding must be added to the online SME profile before it will be considered for a place in the NERC Marine Facilities Programme.

    Funding must be confirmed by 1st April at the latest in order to be considered for a place in the programme for the following financial year.

    Research grants which are approved for funding after 1 April will be programmed on an opportunistic basis if possible (if there is a space in the programme), or will be carried over for consideration at the following 1 April programming deadline. Programming is undertaken according to NERC's prioritisation criteria.

    Information on current bids to use NERC marine facilities and the cruise programme can be found on the Marine Facilities Planning website.

  5. Provisional cruise dates/alterations


  6. Principal Scientist's Workshop

    June/July - compulsory for all Principal Scientists being considered for scheduling in the programme.

    Principal Scientist's Workshop

  7. Cruise programme published


    Provisional cruise dates will be discussed with the Principal Scientists to ensure that the dates offered are appropriate for their science objectives. The cruise programme is then presented to the Cruise Programme Executive Board for sign-off and publication on the Marine Facilities Planning website.

    All Principal Scientists offered a place in the programme will be sent an official offer letter and must accept the enclosed Terms & Conditions as a condition of the cruise offer.

    Cruise postponement policy

  8. Cruise planning

    Ongoing from programme publication until cruise date - specific activities will depend on the ship operator.

    Once a Principal Scientist has been offered a place in the NERC Marine Facilities Programme a number of planning activities will be undertaken, dependent on the ship operator of the cruise.

    Cruises on a NOC operated ship (RRS Discovery; RRS James Cook)

    The cruise planning process includes the following steps and the Principal Scientist is required to:

    1. Provide an accurate cruise track to NMF for planning and application of diplomatic clearance to work in foreign waters.
    2. Attend a cruise planning meeting around six-months before the start of the cruise to confirm equipment, sampling and survey requirements.
    3. Attend the final pre-cruise meeting around three-months before the start of the cruise to agree the NERC 'Marine Facilities Supply Agreement'.
    4. Note that within three-months of the scheduled start date of a cruise, after the NERC Marine Facilities Supply Agreement has been agreed, there is minimal scope for altering technical support arrangements. Any costs resulting from alterations will need to be met.
    5. Attend a de-briefing meeting prior to the end of the cruise to assess planning and execution of the cruise.

    Specific issues with your cruise should be addressed to Colin Day at .

  9. Post-cruise assessment

    Post-cruise assessment guidance

Under the current arrangements the funding for RRS James Cook, RRS Discovery, RRS James Clark Ross and the RRS Ernest Shackleton will be provided centrally by NERC, provided that the research project involves international quality science (ie graded 7 or higher) that is within NERC's remit.

Applications for ship time can, however, only be included in the marine facility programme if they have full funding to cover NMF or BAS technical support and equipment costs (ie 'superstructure' costs).

Applications to use the RV Prince Madog must include all costs associated with use of the vessel, including any technician and equipment support provided by NMF.

There are three discovery science grant types that will cover the superstructure costs for cruises - NERC's policy on allocation of superstructure costs varies depending on the grant type:

  • Standard grants - Proposals for standard grants should not include cruise superstructure costs within the overall cost of the proposal. These will be calculated by NERC as part of the cruise programming process if funding is approved.
  • Large grants - These have a strict maximum funding limit and proposals must therefore include all cruise superstructure costs.
  • Independent Research Fellowships (IRFs) - Proposals for fellowships should not include cruise superstructure costs within the overall cost of the proposal. These will be calculated by NERC as part of the cruise programming process if funding is approved. Ship time associated with IRFs is likely to involve small bolt-on activities rather than stand-alone cruises.

Superstructure costs are estimated on the basis of the information provided in ship-time and marine equipment (SME) forms. Where costs are required (ie if you are applying for a large grant, or for research programmes) they should be requested (ie your SME should be submitted and have been approved by Marine Planning) at least two months before the grant proposal closing date. Marine Planning should be notified if the SME requires costing. Costs should be included in the main Je-S financial tables and included in the Justification for Resources.

Read our Grants Handbook to find out more about the costing of discovery science (responsive mode) grants.

For applications for ship time in association with a NERC research programme, applicants should adhere to the advice given within the specific programme announcement of opportunity.

All ship time for research programmes must be costed ahead of submission of the associated grant proposal (unless directed otherwise by the programme). For further advice on costing of ship time in association with research programmes, contact the programme manager or NERC Marine Planning (see contact details).

Researchers bidding for ship time or marine equipment are advised to speak to Marine Planning to discuss their requirements prior to submission of their online Ship-time & Marine Equipment (SME) application form. The primary purpose of this is to provide advice and resolve issues such as ensuring a realistic start date (which will affect cost indexation), inclusion of all relevant costs, and confirmation that NERC can supply the required capability prior to submission of the SME. Without such a discussion, it is possible that NERC will not be able to include a cruise in the NERC Marine Facilities programme.

SME applications must be approved by Marine Planning ahead of submission of any associated grant proposals. If an SME has not been approved by Marine Planning, NERC are not committed to including that cruise in the NERC Marine Facilities programme should it be funded.

The responsibility lies with the Principal Scientist to determine if their methodology is feasible and that there is a reasonable likelihood that the facilities will be available within the required timescale.

Please see the policy and guidance page for details of additional policy and risk management forms that may be required as part of your ship time application.

Applications for 'opportunistic sea time' may be made at much shorter notice. Opportunistic sea time is defined as being ship-board research which does not require additional ship time (ie which does not delay the normal progress of the ship during a cruise or passage leg). The opportunistic work must be conducted simultaneously with the objectives of the main research cruise, and must not significantly affect the activities of that cruise.

Such research can often be carried out by NMF/BAS staff, and may not require the presence of the scientist. Where the scientist does require a presence aboard the ship, the demand on scientific berths must be very low. In such cases, applicants should contact NERC and to the principal scientist (if one will be onboard), requesting the appropriate support services and cooperation. Such applications should be submitted as soon as possible.

Research applicants please note: applicants wishing to take advantage of short-notice time-limited scientific opportunities involving ship time should contact NERC in the first instance to discuss whether the ship time and support are available at short notice, and whether such an application is eligible for the urgency application procedure.