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1999 Archives

New Ship for Antarctic Research
For Immediate Release

THE British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is to replace its 30-year-old vessel Royal Research Ship (RRS) Bransfield with a new ship later this year. At a cost of 30 million pounds sterling, BAS will take delivery of the ice-strengthened ship Polar Queen in August for use in the annual delivery of supplies to its Antarctic research stations as well as for scientific surveys.

The Polar Queen, designed and built by Rieber Shipping in Norway in 1995, will be renamed Ernest Shackleton. BAS, based at Cambridge in eastern England, will operate the ship under what is believed to be the first private finance initiative shipping deal. Described as an innovative contract, the bare-boat charter from the Norwegian Rieber Shipping AS/Polar Holding ASA will enable a BAS crew to operate the ship for up to 20 years during the Antarctic summer season between October and May.

When not in Antarctic service the ship will be chartered back to Rieber for commercial work. A BAS spokesman explained: "This solution makes full use of the ship and provides better value for both the UK taxpayer and Rieber Shipping than through a conventional procurement." The Polar Queen has a well-proven capability for polar logistic and scientific work because it has been chartered in recent years for use in the German, Scandinavian and Australian national Antarctic research programmes. Professor Chris Rapley, director of BAS, said: "The new vessel will enable BAS to ensure that the UK's presence in Antarctic scientific research will be maintained at a high level and at an affordable cost in one of the most sensitive and fascinating regions of the world. RRS Bransfield can retired gracefully after a distinguished service in the often hostile conditions of the Antarctic."

BAS has operated RRS Bransfield in Antarctica since 1971 and the ship has covered about three million nautical miles. The ship will be formally retired in the BAS home port of Grimsby in north-east England in September when the new ship will also be renamed.

The British Antarctic Survey is responsible for most of the UK government's scientific research in the Antarctic, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Its parent body is the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and all aspects of its research programme are organised from the BAS headquarters in Cambridge.

The Rieber Shipping company was originally established 120 years ago and has operated vessels since the 1930s. In 1956, it undertook its first Antarctic expedition charter and in 1973 the company ordered the first of a series of purpose-built, modern ice-breaking ships for Antarctic and Arctic expeditions.

British Antarctic Survey
High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, United Kingdom CB3 0ET
Telephone: +44 1223 221400
Fax: +44 1223 362616

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