UK boat builder embarks upon pioneering RIB Antarctic project

The boats selected by BAS are standard production boats with some minor modifications to protect the tubes against ice damage
The boats selected by BAS are standard production boats with some minor modifications to protect the tubes against ice damage
The Island RIBs boats will assist in monitoring a specific site on the Antarctic Peninsula that is suffering from a rapid rate of climate change
The Island RIBs boats will assist in monitoring a specific site on the Antarctic Peninsula that is suffering from a rapid rate of climate change
Industry Database

UK boatbuilder Island RIBs has been commissioned to build two 7.5m RIBs for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which need to demonstrate high levels of sea keeping ability, stability and flexibility of design.

The team from BAS, with collectively over 100 years of professional RIB handling experience, including 25 years working on small boats in polar waters, will operate the two new craft out of Rothera Research Station, the UK’s Antarctic Hub, located on the Antarctic Peninsula.

“This contract is a fantastic opportunity for us. The boats selected by BAS are our standard production boats, with some minor modifications to protect the tubes against ice damage. This is testament that our design works due to the attention to detail that has gone into developing it,” said Jo Burke, director of Island RIBs.

“Our RIBs are built with a focus on safety, durability and ease of maintenance. A BAS technician, who is very likely not a marine engineer, with training, will be able to carry out maintenance and repairs. This is especially important considering the remote locations they will be operating in.”

Research craft

The research craft’s primary roles will be to support the BAS world-class marine science and operate as a search and rescue vessel for the research station. They will also be used to transfer scientists, engineers and their equipment to and from the remote island sites in safety, battling the unpredictable, freezing conditions.

They will be used as a platform for research divers, as well as to deploy and recover sampling equipment and autonomous underwater vehicles.

The base platforms are designed to be interchangeable, so either of the boats can be deployed as a search and rescue craft or a dive vessel for the teams that work from the Rothera station.

This flexible design has a series of deck fittings installed that allows all seats, dive suites and stowage boxes to be changed or removed entirely. The RIBs are also fitted with custom Mercury engines from Barrus and enhanced tubes from Venture Marine Ltd.

Climate monitoring

The Rothera Research Station, first opened in 1975, is located at the southern tip of the Wormald Ice Piedmont, just to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, on Adelaide Island. The personnel at the research station fluctuates from over 100 in the summer to a lean 22 during the winter months ensuring the research hub continues to support the deep-field and air operations throughout the year.

During the summer months, teams from the British Antarctic Survey, UK universities and international collaborations use the state-of-the-art Bonner Laboratory and dive facility to study marine and terrestrial biology.

One example of research with which the Island RIBs boats will assist, is the Rothera Time Series (RaTS), a long-term study in its 21st year measuring the temperature, salinity, micronutrients and Chlorophyll levels at a specific site on the Antarctic Peninsula that is suffering from a rapid rate of climate change.

Without reliable equipment for these scientists to use, this vital research would be hampered.

The boats will be launched in time to be exhibited on the Barrus stands Q17, VA12, VA14, VA15, VA16 and VB05 at this year’s Seawork International.

By Anne-Marie Causer

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