Royal Research Ship

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A Royal Research Ship (RRS) is a British-operated merchant ship that conducts research for British Government scientific research organisations, notably the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). A warrant from the Queen is required before a ship can be designated as an RRS.[1]


In the 1950s and 1960s the Royal Research Ships of the day were owned by the Admiralty, partially managed by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), and run as ships of that fleet. The third RRS Discovery was launched on 3 July 1962. She was designed by Henry Herdman, a scientist with the National Institute of Oceanography, working with a naval architect. The vessel was placed on display in London and subsequently used as the base design for the Royal Navy Hecla-class survey vessels. The third Discovery was manned by the RFA until NERC took over full responsibility for the operations and manning of the British research vessels, initially through NERC Research Vessel Services, part of NERC Scientific Services. The "fleet" was divided into two groups under this umbrella, those ships operated in Antarctica managed by British Antarctic Survey and those that operate elsewhere. This second group of ships is now operated by National Marine Facilities (NMFD), based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Notable former RRS include:

Current Royal Research Ships[edit]

The work of the two BAS Royal Research Ships is complemented by a Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship, currently HMS Protector, which provides science logistics support to the British Antarctic Survey.[6]

A small number of other UK research ships (though also public agency owned) are not RRS: Marine Scotland's research vessels, RV Corystes (Northern Ireland's AFBI research vessel) and Cefas Endeavour (the research vessel of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). RV Prince Madog, though a recognised NERC facility similar to the Royal Research Ships, is jointly owned by Bangor University and P&O Maritime[7] and thus not a RRS.

Future Royal Research Ship[edit]

On the 25 April 2014 it was announced by UK government Chancellor George Osbourne that £200 million would be invested in the construction of a new polar research vehicle. The new icebreaker will be designed with a helipad, onboard labs and the capability to deploy subs; and should enter service in 2019.[8]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "£36m contract awarded for scientific research ship". NERC press release. 2004-07-02. 
  2. ^ "RRS James Cook". National Oceanography Centre (NERC). Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "RRS Discovery". National Oceanography Centre (NERC). 
  4. ^ "RRS James Clark Ross - Research Ship". British Antarctic Survey (NERC). Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  5. ^ "RRS Ernest Shackleton - Research Ship". British Antarctic Survey (NERC). Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "HMS Protector". Royal Navy (British Ministry of Defence). Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "RV Prince Madog". National Environmental Research Council. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "George Osborne orders new icebreaker for UK polar science". BBC. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]