RRS Discovery celebrates 100th anniversary and becomes the first to use the Babcock’s Rosyth facility

RRS Discovery arriving in Rosyth for refit. Image Credit: Brian Donovan

The RRS Discovery is not only one of the most famous research ships in the world, but she is also among the most technologically advanced of her kind.

  • The RRS Discovery is the first UK Royal Research Ship to be refitted in Babcock’s Rosyth facilities as part of the Government’s £45 million award to maintain its flagship scientific research vessels

The UK’s leading ocean research institution, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the world class scientific research ship RRS Discovery’s predecessor being designated as a Royal Research Ship (RRS) while the modern RRS Discovery becomes the first Research Vessel to be refitted at Babcock’s Rosyth facility, a mere 35 miles away from the birthplace of the original vessel in Dundee.

To mark this 100th anniversary, the current RRS Discovery will also join its ancestral inspiration, the original RRS Discovery in Dundee from Friday 2–Sunday 4 June, where the past and present will stand in each other’s presence, serving as a reminder of the UK’s world leading ocean research capabilities and long-term commitment to future scientific ocean research.

During her ten years on the sea, the current RRS Discovery has travelled 227,554.21 nautical miles, taking part in 56 expeditions, and partnered with multiple organisations worldwide, exploring a diverse range of science topics to help better understand our oceans.

To help continue to support the world-leading science undertaken by the RRS Discovery, Babcock’s International Rosyth shipyard was recently awarded £45 million by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to maintain its fleet of scientific research vessels – including the RRS Discovery, RRS James Cook, and RRS Sir David Attenborough. The funding was granted to ensure that the UK’s research capabilities can continue to lead the way in polar and ocean research. The three vessels are involved in some of the most demanding research across the globe, visiting polar regions and exploring the depths of tropical oceans.

As part of this investment in science, the RRS Discovery will be the first to undergo a refit at Babcock’s Rosyth facility in Fife, Scotland. During this refit, RRS Discovery will be in drydock to allow the maintenance team access to clean the hull and propulsion equipment, which will help to lower fuel usage and increase overall speed making her more efficient for future expeditions. Safety checks will also be conducted by a Lloyds of London surveyor to ensure the vessel is safe to operate for another year. RRS Discovery will then undertake her post refit trial expedition to the North Atlantic over the course of 19 days.

Jon Short, Senior Project Manager at the National Oceanography Centre, said: “The RRS Discovery is not only one of the most famous research ships in the world, but she is also among the most technologically advanced of her kind. She has provided scientists around the globe the ability to understand the ocean in a way that the scientists of the original RRS Discovery could only dream of. The refit in Scotland will ensure that she is ready to take on future expeditions, often in treacherous seas in order to help us further understand the mysteries of the oceans.”

RRS Discovery’s refit comes at a key time for the maritime community as it transitions towards becoming more sustainable in its operations. The NOC is committed to working with NERC to reduce the carbon impact of the research fleet and to be Net Zero by 2040. The refit will help meet that target by ensuring that RRS Discovery will be able to run more sustainably when on expeditions.

Sean Donaldson, Managing Director, Marine Engineering and Systems - Babcock, added: “Babcock is delighted to welcome the RRS Discovery to Rosyth. Our team is proud to play a part in readying her for her global operations during this notable anniversary.

“We look forward to supporting the UK’s fleet of scientific research vessels during their maintenance periods.”

The RRS James Cook, also operated by NOC, and the RRS Sir David Attenborough, which is operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are both scheduled for upcoming refits in Scotland.

Watch: Dockside interview – Head of Research Ships Engineering and Captain of the RRS Discovery

Ahead of the RRS Discovery's departure to Rosyth, we caught up with Head of Research Ships Engineering Kevin Williams, and Captain Antonio Gattion what this special refit will involve, and what is next for the Discovery once the refit is complete.

Take a virtual tour of RRS Discovery

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