The RRS Sir David Attenborough achieved an important milestone at Cammell Laird’s shipyard this month with the commissioning and testing of its power systems.

The ship is in the final stages of construction.

One of the most advanced vessels of its type in the world, the new polar research ship for Britain will transform how ship-borne science is carried out in the Polar Regions. It is capable of breaking through ice one metre thick at a speed of 3 knots, and will allow up to 30 crew members, plus 60 scientists and support staff, to access some of the most remote locations on the planet.

According to a news release:

“Engineering teams at Cammell Laird report that the ship has begun fully operating on its own power for the first time. The shipyard has begun load testing the ship’s generators to 100 per cent, marking another important milestone.”

John Drummond, Project Director at Cammell Laird, said:

“Testing the ship’s power is a great moment in the final stages of the build, and a very visible sign of the huge amount of technical and engineering work that has been undertaken. This truly unique ship is state-of-the-art and highly complex – we are proud to be getting it ready for sea.”

The ship’s diesel-electric propulsion system is powered by two six-cylinder and two nine-cylinder Rolls-Royce Bergen engines. These provide electrical power generation for the electric propulsion motors, auxiliary systems and hotel services. The configuration of different engine sizes allows for efficient operation across the wide range of conditions that the vessel is likely to encounter.

The generators are supported by battery banks that ensure that the generators run at as near to as constant loading as possible in order to smooth the variable loading normally seen in seagoing vessels. This more constant loading will result in an increase in efficiency and therefore lower diesel consumption, say the firm.

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Could a sister ship of this class be a suitable replacement for HMS Protector which has an out of service date of 2025?

Levi Goldsteinberg

She may need to be a bit beefier but it’s definitely possible given it’s a proven British design and work for British shipbuilders. HMG needs to get thinking about Protector’s replacement sharpish and even consider expanding the ice breaking capabilities of the RN given the gradual opening up of the NW and NE passages


Agree it would probably be a variant of the design but is surely a good baseline. And would even benefit from the skills of the existing workforce to build a second ship of the class.
Almost like a shipbuilding strategy 😉

Nick C

Andy, that’s a very good point. I suspect that the only modification needed would be to build in an helo hangar, and perhaps alter the accommodation to carry the necessary Marines. No doubt the MOD would then contract at double the cost of the existing ship!
But that smacks of a shipbuilding strategy, so it will never happen.


It has room for 60 scientists and labs so they could be reconfigured for marines. I believe she has a hangar already, doesn’t she?

Nick C

Certainly plenty of room for the bootnecks. I’m not sure whether she has a hangar already, I think the helo deck is forward of the bridge so might need some work. I’m not up with the spec for the ship but might look it up tonight.


She does have a hanger enough room for two helicopters it has two huge doors in the superstructure


Hi Nick C,

She already has a hangar, it may need to be enlarged to take a Merlin. It is under the bridge and faces the helo deck on the bows.

No room aft for a helo deck because of the crane and working deck.


So a Wildcat would fit ok? Protector usually has one assigned, I believe?


no hangar, so no flight, just a flight deck. The old Endurance’s had 2 x Lynx Mk3(ICE) Flights


Hi Rooney,

There is a hangar as described here on the British Artic Survey site:

“The RRS Sir David Attenborough will feature a helideck and hangar capable of supporting up to two small helicopters. These could assist with the deployment of airborne scientific instruments and scientific field parties, or transfer vital equipment to shore in case of fast ice preventing a landing by the ship.”

Mike the shipyard

The flight deck is the bow area and she has 2 hanger doors on the front of accommodation – this is one big space but split doors so could be modified.
The forward mast is on hydraulics and will go horizontal for helicopter operations – the safety nets are already fitted.
She has a forward Heli fuel tank and a very large tank down aft to supply shore bases


Hi ChariotRider,

I think Rooney was referring to HMS Protector, which only has a flight deck without a hangar.


Thanks for pointing that out Daniel.

Apologies to Rooney.

Gavin Gordon

Yes, scanning her design and engineering features, etc, she appears ‘semi’ military already.


Hi Rooney, sorry misunderstood your post…

Andy Blakeborough

It has a help hangar . Scientists cabins could double up as accommodation for marines. I am a ship manager at the yard and have been on this build since design.


We are going to need more building capacity for Fishing boats and inshore Fishery Protection boats.


Andy , That’s a good idea , Has decent tonnage and bigger space for a helicopters and gear


And is an existing design that hopefully wouldn’t need too much alteration


Still think our name was better,it was a vote after all.

Andy P

Populism rulz !
Its tells us a lot that ‘the powers that be’ were happy to pander to us prols until the prols got a bit uppity and gave a big ‘F you’ back to them. Much as I think ‘Boaty McBoatface’ was daft, why ask us if you don’t want our input. Unless its the right input of course then its democratic…..


“Boaty McBoatface” I’m still laughing over that… but HEY! They ASKED!


Andy P

Helions, I suspect they’ve learned their lesson. Lots of us ghastly oiks across the world stickin’ it to da man by voting for all sorts of daft names/presidents/prime ministers, anything anti establishment.


What did they EXPECT from a country that produced Monty Python and Belles of St Trinians????


They named one of the research UAV’s Boaty McBoatface. Even got its own entry on wikipedia 🙂


Just read part of the wiki page and it seems that Boat McBoatface is already in service on another RSS and has already identified entirely new deep water phenomena associated with Climate Change and sea level rise – none of it good news of course.

Gavin Gordon

Nice to hear the latest on this very interesting vessel at the forefront of current technical boundaries. Hope the trials go relatively smoothly. The vessel’s significance as a showpeace to Cammell Laird, and maybe the wider UK shipbuilding industry, probably can’t be overstated.


I would love to see Cammell Lairds get the solid support ships.


Yes and they may get some blocks for the T31 if Babcock go that route.

Cammell Lairds could a very busy yard over the next few years. Not often you get that about ships in the UK!


Commentators a few years ago said that cammel laird can only do basic ship parts with not fit out, regarding the two Super Carriers. The Carriers gave impetus to this, which in a way is just or even more so, more impressive for Cammell Laird alone to do. I still look in dis believe with the carriers as well as this ship. Give the UK the chance her shipbuilding talent needs to be WINNERS, as UK governments always bang on about. The UK shipbuilding and marine industry can be this and more!


Pardon the poor grammar. Disbelief, not much, and C. But this is from someone who does not have much time. So please forgive me.