January 18, 2021 – The Royal Navy’s only ice patrol ship is back at sea after a £14m ten-month revamp to enhance her ability to work in Antarctica.
HMS Protector left Teesside after the biggest and longest overhaul during her ten-year career under the White Ensign.
The work carried out by UK Docks and the ship’s company since last March will mean the ship – unique in the Royal Navy’s Fleet – is better at breaking ice, can carry more equipment and supplies to support British and international scientists researching the frozen continent, and has improved facilities for the crew.
The ship spent five months out of the water and was originally due to emerge from refit in the autumn, before heading south to update maritime charts of Antarctic waters using her hi-tech suite of sensors, as well as conducting scientific research alongside civilian experts.
The revamp proved to be more comprehensive and demanding than originally anticipated – particularly as it’s been carried out entirely during the pandemic – which means the ship sailed three months later than planned.
But the Protector which finally departed Teesside at the end of last week is a ship far better suited to serving on the edge of the frozen wasteland of the Antarctic.
In 21 years in the Royal Navy, the Plymouth-based survey vessel’s 1st Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Robin Nash, said the work carried out on Protector had been “the most complex, demanding, and hopefully transformative project I have been a part of”.
The pandemic – and the rules and limitations it prompted – “added layers of complication that could not possibly have been anticipated” from working routines and habits, to enforced medical protection for everyone involved plus “a level of ingenuity and pragmatism from the ship’s company that has been truly humbling.”