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UK Nabs Major Polar Ship Contract

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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A U.K. shipyard has been awarded the contract to build a state-of-the-art polar research ship to support the nation’s ocean and climate studies.

Cammell Laird released a statement Oct. 12 revealing that the government had selected it as the preferred bidder to build a £200 million (about US $308 million) polar research ship for the Government-backed British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

Cammell Laird
Cammell Laird

Merseyside shipyard Cammell Laird was selected by the government to build a £200 million state-of-the-art polar research vessel to support the nation's climate and ocean studies.

During the 12-month tender process, the Merseyside-based shipyard rose to the top among competitors located in the U.K., Europe and the Far East.

This win makes the project the biggest commercial shipbuilding contract for Britain’s maritime industry “in more than a generation,” The Telegraph reported.

“As a One Nation Government we are investing in science capital on a record scale,” Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said in the company’s statement. “This £200m investment secures the U.K.’s position as a world leader in polar research and provides a major boost to shipbuilding in the North West.

“Britain has long been a pioneer in ocean science, shipbuilding and manufacturing,” she added. “Cammell Laird’s success in this competition is testament to this expertise and our commitment to continue pushing the boundaries in marine science.”

A Boost to Shipbuilding

Workers at Cammell Laird's Birkenhead shipyard are expected to begin cutting steel for the 410-foot ship in autumn 2016.

The build is expected to support more than 400 jobs at the shipyard, with another 100 positions at play in local the supply chain, according to Cammell Laird Chief Executive John Syvret.

“Cammell Laird has a very successful apprenticeship scheme and would plan to recruit 60 apprentices throughout the term of the contract,” he added.

According to Paul Stott, senior lecturer in naval architecture at Newcastle University, this opportunity is significant because the commercial shipbuilding aspect of the industry “essentially closed in Britain in the 1980s,” when business shifted to shipyards in the Far East.

"The shipyards that are surviving are doing so in niche markets, which is what this contract is,” he said.

“Although Britain does have a very health maritime industry it is in leisure, commercial repairs, outfitting ships with equipment and certifying them.”

El Pollock via Wikimedia Commons
El Pollock / CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Workers at Cammell Laird's Birkenhead shipyard are expected to begin cutting steel for the 410-foot ship in autumn 2016; the vessel should be completed in 2019.

Stott suggested that this supply network is what gave the advantage to Cammell Laird in securing the contract.

A 'State-of-the-Art' Build

Able to support a crew of 30 and a research staff of 60, this will be the most advanced oceanographic research vessel fleet in the world, according to the company.

Designed to operate in both Antarctica and the Arctic, the ship will be able to endure up to 60 days in sea-ice, and cut through ice up to 3 feet thick, making it possible for scientists to spend more time in polar regions, collecting more data and making more research observations.

An on-board heli-deck is expected to open up new locations for research.

Scientists working from the ship’s labs will be able to launch robotic submarines and marine gliders through a “moon pool” in the ship’s hull in order to collect data on ocean conditions and marine biology, while airborne robots and environmental monitoring systems will collect information from the polar environment.

“Changes in both the Antarctic and Artic marine ecosystems affect the U.K.’s environment and economy, particularly in industries such as fishing and tourism,” Natural Environment Research Council Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said.

“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,” he added.

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

While operated by the BAS, the polar explorer will be available to the whole U.K. research community, including for postgraduate training.

The research vessel is scheduled to be ready for service in 2019.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Contract awards; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Government contracts; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Shipyards

Comment from Stephen Leigh, (10/22/2015, 4:20 AM)

I do hope Camell-Laird and the government insist and guarantee that British produced steel is procured for this contract.


Comment from peter gibson, (10/22/2015, 10:53 AM)

Good to see British shipbuilding get the contract. Far east shipbuilding has taken a big hit in general.


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