THE UK's fleet of flagship scientific research vessels are to be maintained in Rosyth after Babcock International won a £45 million contract for the work.

As part of the initial three-year deal, which has an additional two-year option, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook will dock in West Fife for programmed maintenance and upgrade work.

The move will secure highly-skilled jobs and suppliers to maintain the fleet.

The ships conduct innovative scientific research into oceans and polar regions and also support scientists tackling global issues such as climate change and pollution.

David Lockwood, Babcock CEO, welcomed the contract award.

“Our flexible and efficient solution will ensure the fleet is maintained to exceptional standards and optimise vessel availability in support of NERC’s global footprint," he added.

The contract awarded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is a key component of the Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy, boosting investment in the UK shipbuilding industry.

Industry and Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “RRS Sir David Attenborough and its maiden voyage to Antarctica inspired the explorer in all of us, venturing into some of the world’s most unforgiving climates, while conducting vital scientific research on pressing global issues like sea level rise and marine biodiversity.

“This research is invaluable, which is why we are committing the funding needed for the upkeep of these key research vessels, drawing on Rosyth Shipyard’s proven track record of excellent work maintaining UK ships.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the contract award was an example of the National Shipbuilding Strategy delivering for British industry and boosting investment in UK yards.

“A cornerstone of British shipbuilding, Rosyth is already home to a number of major build and maintenance contracts, bringing a wealth of expertise and experience to the British shipbuilding sector,” he said.

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, executive chair of NERC, part of UK Research and Innovation, said the research ships provided state-of-the-art facilities for scientists to conduct research of oceans and polar regions and build understanding of the ice, atmosphere and seas.

“We look forward to working with Babcock Rosyth to maintain these ships and onboard facilities, which are a key part of the UK’s scientific infrastructure," he added.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and is one of the world’s most advanced polar research vessels, having departed the UK for its maiden voyage in November 2021.

The vessel left its UK home port on November 20 for a six-month expedition to Antarctica, testing a new artificial intelligence system which will help chart the most environmentally-friendly route at any given time.

The RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook are operated by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and conduct oceanic exploration around the world, undertaking multi-disciplinary marine science to unlock the mysteries of the deep ocean.