New polar research ship for UK

Fri, 06 June 2014

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is to commission a new state-of-the-art polar research ship that will enable UK polar scientists to remain at the forefront of environmental research in both the Antarctic and the Arctic. The ship will be ready for operation by 2019.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, announced at a meeting today that the government will provide more than £200m of capital investment for the new UK polar flagship. This investment is part of £1·1bn annual capital budget for science and research over the next five years, announced in June 2013, which is now to be the subject of a consultation with the scientific community.

The new polar ship will provide a cutting-edge research facility with greater ice-strengthened capability and longer endurance than NERC's existing polar research ships which are coming to the end of their operational life. NERC will be working with the UK science community to refine the technical requirements for the ship to enable research with the greatest potential to deliver economic and societal benefits, placing environmental science at the heart of responsible management of our planet.

Professor Duncan Wingham, chief executive of NERC, said:

"The UK's environmental science leads the world in excellence. NERC's ability to bring together the best UK polar scientists and support them by providing cutting-edge infrastructure and technology is fundamental to this success. We already know that the vast changes we have observed in the Arctic and the Antarctic will affect future climate and sea levels and the new ship will address the challenges we currently face in further exploring these environments.

This vessel will be equipped to support oceanographic, marine ecosystem, geophysical and other research activities that help us make sense of the changing polar environments. The ship's advanced capability will put the UK in a leading position to work nationally and internationally with the scientific community to understand how changes in these remote environments will impact the wider global climate, information that is essential to meeting the needs of Government, business and wider society."

The ship will be operated by NERC's British Antarctic Survey for the benefit the whole UK polar science community, including postgraduate training.

Director of British Antarctic Survey, Professor Jane Francis, said:

"This an exciting time for UK polar science and I am delighted with this announcement. It signals a firm commitment by government and NERC to sustain and promote the UK's world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic. The last 15-20 years has seen remarkable developments in science and technology. Incorporating these new technologies in a new ice-strengthened research ship will offer a step-change in Britain's capability to deliver bigger and better science. It's fantastic news for our science teams at BAS, for our partners within UK universities, and for our collaboration with other national polar operators. We very much look forward to helping to develop the specification to enable us to make optimal use of the latest technologies in marine robotic and remotely operated instruments."

Further information

NERC Press Office
01793 411561
07917 557215

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