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Cammell Laird reaches nine-month milestone on RRS Sir David Attenborough build

By Annette Parker

Cammell Laird shipyard has today (30 May 2017) announced at the Nor Shipping Trade Fair in Oslo that it has reached the nine-month milestone in its project to build the UK’s new polar research ship the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

The Merseyside-based engineering services giant beat off competition from around the world to be appointed to build the £150 million vessel. The ship, which is the biggest commercial shipbuilding project in Britain for 30 years, has been commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and it will be operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), transforming the UK’s polar research capability.

Cammell Laird CEO John Syvret CBE said since August 2016 1,800 tonnes of steel, out of a total of 5,200 tonnes, had been fabricated to make the hull of the ship, which carries the Cammell Laird hull number 1,390 and is due to enter service in 2019.

“The project has generated real momentum and we are pleased to be on time,” he said. “The first really significant moment of the build came in October when Sir David Attenborough visited the yard for the official keel laying ceremony. This was the biggest set piece event at Cammell Laird for decades and that is when it really started to sink in for the company just what a historic ship the Sir David Attenborough will be. It will join the pantheon of great Cammell Laird ships.

“The keel laying and all the media coverage galvanised people and there is considerable pride in the workforce that we are building this ship, which will be a showcase for what Merseyside and British industry is capable of. We want the Sir David to be known around the world as the finest, most advanced polar research ship ever built.”

Cammell Laird managing director Linton Roberts said important landmarks in the build so far include the testing and fitting of two Rolls-Royce drive propulsion motors weighing 115 tonnes, with a combined cost of £5million. The motors were transported by road from Rolls-Royce’s plant in Bilbao, Spain, to Birkenhead, a journey which took nine days as the load could only travel at night.

Meanwhile, the ship’s stern thrusters have also been trialled and fitted to the ship. The two 1,576kw rated thrusters were made by North East manufacturer Tees White Gill. They weigh 15 tonnes each and stand three metres high.

“The next phases of the build will focus on the power of the ship, with four seven metre long electrical propulsion switchboards installed, together with four two metre long frequency converters,” said Mr Roberts. “We will then look at the moon pool structure, one of the most complex and innovative aspects of the ship’s design. It is from here that important science will be undertaken, including the launching of the remotely operated sub-sea vehicle Boaty McBoatface.”

Cammell Laird project director John Drummond said the team is planning to install the nine and six cylinder Rolls-Royce engines in the ship shortly. These high-powered engines will help drive the ship’s specially designed hull through one metre thick ice at a speed of three knots. It also has the capacity to run at 11 knots with almost no underwater noise radiated from the vessel. The combination of silent running and ice breaking capacity is one aspect which makes the vessel so technically advanced.

In total, 220 engineers and 20 apprentices are presently working on ship including platers, welders and mechanical and pipe fitters. Cammell Laird has also been able to deploy its two new 15 tonne and 50 tonne cranes for steel production in its construction hall, which is one of the biggest and best equipped in Europe.

John Syvret said: “This project is putting Cammell Laird and British shipbuilding and engineering back in the super league of global shipping where we belong. It sends a very powerful message to the global maritime industry about the skills and facilities we have. Cammell Laird is determined to pursue an aggressive exports campaign. We want to use this high profile project to catapult us into the marketplace following the recently announced shipbuilding strategy.”




The RSS Sir David Attenborough will be 128 metres (410 ft) long, with a beam of 24 metres (79 ft). Her draught will be 7 metres (23 ft). Her cruising speed will be 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph) with a range of 19,000 nautical miles (35,000 km; 22,000 mi) at that speed. She will be capable of carrying a helicopter and will have a capacity for approximately 900 cubic metres (32,000 cu ft) of cargo. The ship will have the capacity to break through ice one metre (3 ft 3 in) thick at a speed of 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph). Accommodation will be provided for 30 crew and 60 research staff.

When the ship sets sail in 2019, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will provide a research base to help scientists tackle some of the most important issues facing humanity, including climate change, future sea level rise and the impact of environmental change on marine life.

With state-of-the-art facilities on board, the new ship will enable more ambitious expeditions and deploy advanced marine robotics to explore inaccessible areas.

At £200million this is the biggest Government investment in Antarctic and Arctic science infrastructure since the 1980s and will enable the UK research community to conduct world-leading 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.


About A.Parker
MERSEY MARITIME Mersey Maritime is the representative body for the Maritime Sector and related industry sectors operating across the UK's Liverpool City Region, bringing together over 1250 businesses whose activities contribute some £3.47bn - or 13% - to the region's GDP. The cluster is the broadest and largest outside of London, reflecting Liverpool's long history as a maritime mercantile city. As a city region that has maritime embedded in its DNA, Mersey Maritime is working in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University to address an agenda centred on skills, innovation, R&D and business support that will help facilitate further growth and job creation. The organisation is co-located with LJMU at the Maritime Knowledge Hub in Birkenhead, Wirral (UK).


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Cammell Laird reaches nine-month milestone on RRS Sir David Attenborough build