The British Antarctic
Survey (BAS) and its parent body the Natural Environment Research
Council (NERC), have concluded what is believed to be the
first ever Private Finance Initiative shipping contract. The
contract is with the Norwegian Rieber Shipping AS/Polar Holding
The BAS will take
delivery of the ice-strengthened ship Polar Queen in August
for use in its annual re-supply of its research stations as
well as for scientific surveys. The 30M ship, which replaces
the 30 year old Royal Research Ship (RRS) Bransfield, will
be renamed Ernest Shackleton. The innovative contract with
Rieber enables BAS to operate the ship for 15-20 years under
a bare-boat charter using BAS crew during the Antarctic summer
season (October - May). When not in Antarctic service the
ship will be chartered back to Rieber for commercial work.
This solution makes full utilisation of the ship and provides
better value for both the UK taxpayer and Rieber Shipping
than through a conventional procurement.
The Polar Queen, designed
and built by Rieber Shipping in Norway in 1995, has a well
proven capability for polar logistic and scientific work.
In recent years German, Scandinavian and Australian national
Antarctic research programmes have chartered her for Antarctic
work. 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 retire
gracefully after a distinguished service in the often hostile
conditions of the Antarctic".