After what seemed like an age, the replacement for HMS Endurance (Antarctic Patrol Ship) was announced a few months ago.
The name HMS Protector has previously been used for a number of ships but the last was also an Antarctic Patrol Vessel.
More information and images can be found at the HMS Protector Associations web site here.
After almost sinking following an engine room accident the fate of HMS Endurance has been uncertain, a decision on repair or replacement has yet to be reached but the decision has now been confirmed to provide an interim replacement for at least 3 years until a final decision can be made.
Here she is in better times
And not so better times
The interim replacement is a polar research and subsea support vessel called MV Polarbjørn (Polar Bear).
HMS Scott, the survey vessel, had been acting as stand in but this is not ideal, taking her away from the normal survey role.
The Polar Bear is a mere 10 years old and although smaller than the laid up Endurance will still be a capable stand in, although the lack of a helicopter hangar is far from ideal. Currently owned by CG Rieber Shipping the Polar Bear was previously operating on the spot market.
To quote the CG Rieber web site
The ‘Polarbjørn’ is purpose-built for undertaking both long duration Antarctic expeditions, and offshore subsea support duties. With her large public areas and accommodation capacities, helicopter deck and DP2 class, the vessel is well suited for undertaking flotel- and base ship functions on offshore fields and other operations. The vessel’s large deck areas and cargo holds offers ‘unlimited’ storage capacity for ROV and related equipment. The ship’s 50-ton knuckle-boom crane and the A-frame offers efficient solutions for handling equipment over the side and over the stern.
HMS Protector has now emerged from her 10 day refit, ready for deployment. In a ceremony on the 1st of June she will be officially renamed and commissioned on the 23rd
November this year will be the start of her operational life as the Antarctic Patrol Vessel.
The ship’s refit included the removal and repositioning of the flight deck from the bridge roof to the stern, the installation of a multibeam echo sounder survey system, a complete overhaul of the main engines and gearboxes, and the addition of naval insignia.
As can be seen from the photographs the flight deck has been repositioned but most of the original deck fittings and cranes retained, perhaps as a condition of the lease arrangement or just because they are useful.
HMS Protector is to be equipped with a state-of-the-art survey motor boat and initially two Pacific 22 rigid inflatable boats, which will be replaced next year by a landing craft vehicle for the carriage of stores and equipment to shore. Three all-terrain vehicles and three quad bikes, complete with trailers, will also be carried and craned directly onto the ice to assist in the resupply of British Antarctic Survey scientific stations.
The statement that she would carry an LCVP caught my eye
I am sure one of these would be very useful, made possible perhaps, by the retention of the large capacity cranes.
Although not ideal, a new ship would have been much better, especially one with a dedicated hangar, this is a smart move by the MoD.
It creates a bit of breathing space in which to make a decision about a more permanent replacement and supports an ongoing presence in the Antarctic without crippling cost.