RRS Sir David Attenborough – COVID impacts on ship into service timeline

British Antarctic Survey

CAMBRIDGE: British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is today notifying the UK marine polar research community of its intention to re-schedule RRS Sir David Attenborough’s (SDA) ice trials, science capability and equipment testing, and the planned Antarctic ‘science rehearsal cruise’.

The SDA is currently undergoing a suite of technical and operational sea trials in UK waters. Although trials and training are going very well, the impacts of Covid-19 on supply chains and international travel, combined with additional safety measures required to prevent infection of shipyard workers and BAS mariners, have caused significant delays to the SDA’s completion, certification, mariner training and sea trials programme. In addition, in the last few weeks, BAS has been forced to cancel planned ice trials in the Arctic because travel restrictions affecting Norway made it impossible to get specialists on board.

As a result, BAS has had to reprioritise its plans, with priority given to ensuring it achieves a seaworthy, certified ship that can sail safely to Antarctica later this year to resupply stations and deliver essential equipment and supplies for the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration.

BAS has notified researchers who were expecting to join SDA for science trials. UKRI NERC Marine Planning continues to liaise with funded grant owners as to when and what ship their cruises may occur on. It is expected that the RRS Sir David Attenborough will commence existing funded grant science from 2023. Researchers currently considering grant proposals requesting polar ship time should discuss with marine planning at early stages as to when the vessel will be available for future proposals.

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