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Chancellor puts UK at forefront of ocean research with new polar science ship

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Chancellor announces funding in speech on science’s role in building a more balanced and resilient economy.

The government will fund a new £200 million polar research ship to put UK scientists at the forefront of climate and ocean research in both Antarctica and the Arctic, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced in a speech.

Built with on board laboratories, the new ship will carry cutting edge technology, including robotic submarines and underwater gliders to bring back data on the ocean conditions and marine biology.

The Chancellor made the announcement speaking to an audience of leading scientists on the importance of science, research and innovation to the government’s long term economic plan.

Speaking about investment in a new polar ship, the Chancellor said:

One of the final frontiers in the world where there is still much discovery to be done are the polar oceans.

Britain must continue to have a presence in these parts of the world. But our two current polar exploration ships are nearing the end of their life and need replacing.

So I am delighted that we are investing in a new polar research ship carry cutting edge British technology to put British scientists at the forefront of research in both the Antarctic and the Arctic oceans.

Minister for the Polar Regions, Mark Simmonds added:

A new state-of-the-art polar research flagship will extend the UK’s capability and reach in polar waters.

It also makes explicitly clear our long-term commitment to maintaining our presence and scientific excellence in South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory

Polar ship sidways.
The design of the new polar ship.

The Chancellor’s 2013 Spending Round announcement of £1.1billion per year of capital funding to the UK scientific infrastructure provides an exceptional opportunity to enhance the UK presence in the South Atlantic and Antarctica, and to sustain, for decades into the future, the UK’s front-rank position in Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) proposed the design and build of the next generation polar research vessel.

This will deliver world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic. Built with on board laboratories, the new ship will contain:

  • remote controlled instruments, which can safely open up extreme polar environments to research
  • robotic vehicles, helping to pave the way for the development of new UK industries
  • sophisticated underwater environmental monitoring systems, used to provide underpinning data for research

Operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the ship will be available to the whole UK research base including postgraduate training.

The new ship will have greater endurance, to enable longer voyages which coupled with the use of helicopters will ensure significantly greater geographic coverage.

The enhanced coverage will open up new locations for science and will clearly demonstrate and reinforce the continuing British presence in Antarctica and the South Atlantic.