RRS Discovery

The Royal Research Ship Discovery is designed to support the multidisciplinary research required for the 21st century. The ship is the fourth vessel to bear the name and continues the tradition of oceanographic research at sea. RRS Discovery was delivered to NERC on the 8th July 2013 by builders CNP Freire, SA from Vigo in northern Spain.

The RRS Discovery leaving portDesigned by Skipsteknisk AS, a leader in the design of sophisticated and noise reduced research vessels who also designed RRS James Cook, this new ship will operate worldwide, with more modern facilities and in higher sea-states, than the previous RRS Discovery Read more about the RRS Discovery Replacement Project

The RRS Discovery comes with sub-bottom profiling and multi-beam equipment for mapping the seabed, whilst her dynamic positioning capability means Remotely Operated Vehicles such as Isis can be used. Her wide range of cranes and overside gantries, with associated winches and wires, will allow many different types of equipment to be deployed from the ship. These facilities and the many more listed below help support the UK marine science community as it undertakes research of national and global importance.



  • Single & multibeam echosounder surveys
  • Integrated data logging
  • Seismic surveys
  • Clean seawater sampling
  • Remotely Operated Vehicle operations
  • CTD surveys
  • Deepwater coring, trawling, dredging and instrument towing


General Particulars

RRS Discovery

Call sign


Overall length


IMO number




Total Capacity:



Maximum 6.6m
Operational 6.5m
Minimum 5.108m

Marine crew


Maximum displacement

6260.8 Tonnes

  Scientists and technicians


Gross tonnage

5952 Tonnes

Transit speed

12 knots

Net tonnage

1785 Tonnes

Endurance extreme

50 days

Minimum Displacement


Endurance operational

50 days


July 2013

Working areas

All oceans, including ice-edge


Lloyd’s +100A1, Ice 1D, LMC, UMS, DP(AM), IWS, EP, Research Vessel

Scientific Facilities

Handling Systems

The RRS Discovery is fitted with a range of handling systems, allowing operations to be conducted from both the starboard side of the ship and the stern. Provision of two separate systems on the starboard side will enable both to be rigged with working cables simultaneously, which will facilitate swapping of differing operations between the two deployment points seamlessly.

The RRS Discovery is also fitted with a comprehensive suite of winches similar to those on the RRS James Cook.


A range of laboratory spaces that can be flexibly configured to support a range of differing scientific activities on each cruise are provided.

Permanently Fitted Sensors/Instrumentation

The RRS Discovery is configured with a suite of state-of-the-art sensors, as well as a modern computerized data logging and distribution system.

Hydroacoustic Suite

The hydroacoustic suite is one of the most important components of the RRS Discovery’s sensor outfit. These sensors are mounted in two main areas: the large bottom mapping multibeam echosounder transducer is fitted in a novel design bottom ‘blister’, while a range of other acoustic instruments are fitted within two drop keels.




Forward Blister

EM122 1° x 1° 12kHz multibeam echosounder

Seabed mapping up to full ocean depth

SBP120 3° x 3° sub-bottom profiler

Imaging the structure below the seabed

EM710 2° x 2° 70-100kHz multibeam echosounder

Seabed mapping in depths up to:

  • 2000m
  • 700m
  • 400m

75kHz ADCP

150kHz ADCP


Monitoring acoustic background and system performance

Port Drop Keel

EA600 12kHz singlebeam echosounder

Depth measurement

10kHz singlebeam echosounder

Depth measurement or equipment communication

CCTV underwater camera


Starboard Drop Keel

EK60 Bioacoustics echosounder with following frequencies:

18kHz, 38kHz 70kHz, 120kHz, 200kHz, 333kHz

Fishery research - biomass estimation

Scanmar S-1004/s-1007 hydrophone

Trawl net monitoring system


Monitoring acoustic background and system performance


x1 Port
x1 Starboard

Ultra-Short Base-Line (USBL)

Underwater acoustic positioning

Bridge Equipment

RRS Discovery is one of the most sophisticated research ships afloat and has been designed  and commissioned with a full suite of modern navigation and communications systems, including a dynamic positioning system. Read more about Bridge equipment


The ship is configured with a novel azimuth thruster propulsion system configuration compared to a conventional fixed shafts/propellers and rudders. The thrusters can be independently rotated through 360° which will make the vessel extremely manoeuvrable. This configuration has also been selected with fuel efficiency in mind, while the ship is also some 10 metres longer (and slightly narrower) than the RRS James Cook, the additional length also contributes to fuel efficiency.



Diesel generators

4 x Wartsila 8L20 (1,770kW / 1000 rpm each – total 5,760kW)

Main propulsion motors

2 x Wartsila DC (2,200kW  3x690v, 50Hz)


4 x Wartsila LLC (Low Loss Concept) Transformers each 2500\1250kVA


2 x Azimuth Thrusters with 5-bladed, fixed pitch, 3.6m diameter

One retractable azimuth forward (1,350kW)

One Tees Gill water-jet thruster (1,700 kW)

Marine diesel oil capacity


Fresh water capacity


Water Ballast (Maximum)




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