Work Starts On The (Nearly) Boaty McBoatface

17 October 2016, 00:00

Construction of a polar research ship, which shot to fame amid calls to name the vessel Boaty McBoatface, is getting under way.

Sir David Attenborough, after whom it was ultimately decided the ship should be named, will initiate the laying of the first block of the keel.

The keel-laying is a traditional maritime ceremony to bring good luck to a vessel during her construction and her captain and crew during her life.

The £200m ship has been commissioned by the Cambridge based Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is being built in the UK on Merseyside in the largest commercial shipbuilding project in the country in 30 years.

Once she sets sail in 2019, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world and will conduct research into the world's oceans and tackling climate change, the research council said.

The ship first grabbed headlines after a "name our ship" competition, in which the suggestion Boaty McBoatface topped the public poll with more than 124,000 votes, more than three times its nearest rival.

The final decision on the name was made by Science Minister Jo Johnson, and the announcement the vessel would be called after Sir David was made just days before the veteran broadcaster's 90th birthday.

But in a move recognising the popularity of the Boaty McBoatface moniker, it was also announced a remote-control sub-sea vehicle, which will be launched from the research vessel, would be given that name.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is being built by Cammell Laird and will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey.

The keel-laying ceremony is set to be attended by around 1,000 people including guests from science, technology and engineering spheres and the shipyard workforce.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

"The RRS Sir David Attenborough, with Boaty McBoatface operated from her as a robotic underwater vehicle, will be one of the most advanced research ships in the world.

It will help inspire the next generation of scientists in the UK and build on our status as one of the world's leading nations in polar science, engineering and technology.

With Merseyside's proud history and expertise in ship building, this project will support over 460 local jobs and apprenticeships, and provide a boost to the region and the whole Northern Powerhouse."