Keel Laying for RRS Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough staff

Published Oct 17, 2016 2:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Cammell Laird held one of the biggest ceremonies in its illustrious history when Sir David Attenborough joined more than 1000 people for the keel laying of the new £150million ($183,007,500.00) polar research vessel.

Construction was officially started by the world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster, after whom the ship is named, at the ceremonial event at Cammell Laird’s famous Birkenhead site in Liverpool City Region. Sir David 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.

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.

 Speaking at the ceremony Sir David Attenborough said:

“It is an honor to be invited to take part in the keel-laying ceremony. The Polar Regions are not only critical for understanding the natural world but they also have an enormous appeal for journalists, broadcasters and the public.

“I have had several opportunities to experience the power of these places first hand. This new ship will ensure that scientists have access to these enigmatic regions to uncover secrets that we can only imagine at this point. Scientists working on this new ship will inform everyone about our changing world for generations to come.”

 Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

“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. It will help inspire the next generation of scientists in the UK and build on our status as one of the world’s leading nations in polar science, engineering and technology.

“With Merseyside’s proud history and expertise in ship building, this project will support over 460 local jobs and apprenticeships, and provide a boost to the region and the whole Northern Powerhouse.”

Cammell Laird CEO John Syvret said: “We are proud to say we beat competition from around the world to win this contract, the biggest in Britain for a generation. We want that message to go out today – that British engineering, Merseyside engineering, is strong and still the very best in the world. We want to thank our MPs and local authorities which have believed in us and supported our vision to make Cammell Laird a key economic driver for Merseyside and British industry. Our region flourishes when Cammell Laird is strong and the building of the Sir David Attenborough takes Cammell Laird to a new level, and we thank Sir David for making the effort to join us, helping give the project and British engineering global awareness. His is a name our workforce will be proud to work thousands of hours for. This magnificent ship provides a platform to showcase Cammell Laird to the world, to demonstrate we have the skills, the workforce and the facilities. Today marks a giant leap for Cammell Laird, we are dreaming big and building big again.”

Cammell Laird managing director Linton Roberts said the contract would secure jobs at Cammell Laird while a further 60 apprentices would be recruited during the project.

“It is a great honor to welcome Sir David and so many distinguished guests to Cammell Laird for this auspicious day. We are particularly proud that our entire workforce, management and staff were present to witness the milestone. This first section of hull represents the start of hull number 1390 at Cammell Laird, the latest in the sequence of vessels built by this yard from ocean liners to warships. Cammell Laird has been at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, and indeed our national endeavors for nearly 200 years. Within the numbers many great ships and great stories are to be found, illustrious names such Mauretania, Windsor Castle, Ark Royal, Prince of Wales, Rodney, Conqueror and Sovereign Explorer, all world beating vessels in their day.

Hull 1390 and the Sir David Attenborough will enter the pantheon of these great Cammell Laird ships and create many stories of her own no doubt, because she is to be a very special ship. Today Cammell Laird will proudly rise to the challenge to provide the UK’s current generation of world beating explorers and scientists with the greatest polar research ship yet built.”

Keel-laying is a maritime engineering tradition that formally marks the start of a ship's construction with a ceremony that is said to bring luck to the ship during construction and to the captain and crew during its later life.

At £200 million ($244,010,000.00) 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.

Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the RRS Sir David Attenborough will transform the UK’s polar research capability. 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.

The Polar Explorer Program, being developed by STEM Learning Ltd, will provide a package of online resources such as videos and images for teachers at low attaining primary and secondary schools. The suite of resources will help increase engagement, achievement and literacy in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects amongst students. The material will also be available for the public.

The educational support will be available for teachers from March 2017 at 100 schools, and will be gradually rolled out to a further 400 schools by January 2019, running over the next four years. 

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