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The Royal Navy’s HMS PROTECTOR in Christchurch as part of historic Southern Ocean patrol

The arrival of HMS Protector in Christchurch is a powerful demonstration of the close cooperation between the UK and New Zealand.

The arrival of HMS Protector, a specialist ice patrol ship, in Christchurch today is a powerful demonstration of the close cooperation between the UK and New Zealand to uphold the conservation rules of the Antarctic Treaty System and to protect the Southern Ocean from illegal fishing activities.

HMS PROTECTOR sailed from Hobart in mid December with a team of New Zealand and Australian Officers embarked. With their invaluable support, PROTECTOR conducted a 5 week fisheries patrol in the Southern Ocean and she was the first Royal Navy vessel to visit the East Antarctic and Ross Sea regions for 80 years. HMS Protector will be open to the public on Sunday 24 January between 10.00am and 2.00pm at No. 2 East Wharf, Lyttelton.

Acting British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Helen Smith said HMS Protector’s Antarctic patrol was a strong example of the close working relationship between the UK and New Zealand.

With New Zealand, we have shared scientific programmes and stewardship roles in the region. This patrol has deepened that co-operation and will ensure fishing and other commercial activities in the Ross Sea region are carried out in line with international conservation agreements.

Commander Trefor Fox, HMS PROTECTOR’s Second in Command, said:

One hundred years after Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic Endurance expedition, it is an honour for HMS PROTECTOR to have made our own ‘trans-Antarctic’ visit to East Antarctica and the Ross Sea region. We are delighted to work in partnership with our Australian and New Zealand colleagues to underpin our shared Antarctic Treaty objectives.

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Treffry-Kingdom, Defence Adviser, British High Commission said:

The armed forces of the United Kingdom and New Zealand have a long and close relationship, serving alongside each other on numerous missions worldwide including current operational activity in Iraq. During its current patrol, HMS Protector has personnel from the Royal New Zealand Navy onboard, providing the ship’s crew with specialist knowledge and support.

Bryan Storey, Professor of Antarctic Studies, Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury said:

Having worked with the British Antarctic Survey for 25 years and enjoyed Antarctic field support from HMS Endurance over many seasons, the visit of HMS Protector provides a wonderful opportunity to endorse and further enhance research collaborations on ice sheet dynamics and the Ross Sea Ecosystem with British Antarctic scientists. Research scientists at Gateway Antarctica (University of Canterbury) are investigating the sentinel penguin, killer whale and seal populations within the Ross Sea to underpin establishment of Marine protected areas in the Ross Sea”.

HMS Protector is the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship and is deployed on operations for 330 days a year. She displaces 5000 tonnes, is 90m long is crewed by 88 personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. HMS Protector is a symbol of the Royal Navy’s global reach, operational flexibility and the Service’s ability to sustain operations wherever and whenever that presence is required.

HMS Protector’s normal area of operation is the British Antarctic Territory where she supports the UK’s international obligations, carries out hydrographic survey work and supports the scientific work of the British Antarctic Survey.

HMS Protector has been conducting inspections of fishing vessels within the Ross Sea under the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and is travelling with six specialists from New Zealand and Australia.The ice-class vessel will be the first Royal Navy vessel to visit the East Antarctic and Ross Sea regions in 80 years. After Christchurch, HMS Protector will continue its patrol and circumnavigate Antarctica. On 24 January, the ship will be open to visitors (1000-1400hrs) and will be supported by a Britain is GREAT marquee that promotes the UK as an open place to do business, study and visit. Antarctic partners such as Gateway Antarctica will also be displaying their work alongside the British High Commission.

HMS Protector is capable of positioning to pinpoint accuracy in winds of up to 80 knots and is fitted with an impressive array of specialist equipment. This includes a hull mounted multi-beam echo sounder; a state-of-the-art survey motor boat (SMB), ‘James Caird IV’; an 8.5m ramped Work Boat, ‘Terra Nova’; seven high-speed rigid inflatable and inflatable boats; three quad bikes and trailers and a Land Rover and two trailers. And for the first time, three 3D-printed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed by Southampton University.