UK shipbuilder Cammell Laird has held a keel laying ceremony for the new GBP 150 million (USD 183.5 million) polar research vessel at Birkenhead site in Liverpool City Region.
The new ship is named after David Attenborough, English broadcaster and naturalist who started the keel laying process by initiating the lifting by crane of the first hull unit on to the construction berth.
This unit, weighing around 100 tons, includes part of the ship’s keel and is the first of 97 units which will be erected to form the entire hull of the research ship.
Scheduled to set sail in 2019, the new ship RRS Sir David Attenborough will enable expeditions and deploy advanced marine robotics to explore inaccessible areas. The vessel will be operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and deployed in both Antarctic and Arctic.
“The RRS Sir David Attenborough, with Boaty McBoatface operated from her as a robotic underwater vehicle, will be one of the most advanced research ships in the world,” Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, said.
The GBP 200 million (USD 244.6 million) investment is said to be the biggest UK Government investment in Antarctic and Arctic science infrastructure since the 1980s. It is expected to enable the UK research community to conduct polar research for the next 25 years.
The funding will also cover the development of projects to support the ship’s work including construction of a new wharf at the largest British Antarctic facility, Rothera Research Station.
In October 2015, Cammell Laird was selected by the country’s government as the preferred bidder to build the polar research ship.
According to an online poll conducted by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) earlier this year, the new vessel was supposed to be christened Boaty McBoatface as the name remained on top of the entries with over 124 thousand votes.
However, NERC said that the chances for the ship to be named so were small since the council wanted the name to be “inspirational and exemplify the work it will do.”