Construction partner chosen to modernise Antarctic infrastructure

4 January 2017

Construction expert BAM has been chosen to partner with NERC's research centre the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to modernise UK Antarctic and other research facilities, enabling British scientists to continue delivering world class research into some of the most important issues facing our planet.

Aerial view of Rothera Research Station

Aerial view of Rothera Research Station

BAM has teamed up with major European design consultants SWECO to assist with project delivery.

Commissioned by NERC, this long-term UK partnership will last between seven and ten years and is worth an estimated £100m. The modernisation programme will enable a world-leading capability to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in the polar regions.

One of the first projects to be undertaken is the redevelopment of the wharf at the BAS Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. This is part of the enhancement of polar facilities to accommodate the new state-of-the-art polar research vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

BAM, whose UK arm BAM Nuttall was responsible for iconic structures such as the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool, the Clyde Arc in Glasgow and the Mersey Tunnel, was selected following a thorough procurement exercise that attracted interest from over 20 firms worldwide and five eventual bidders. Two group companies BAM Nuttall and BAM International, will be responsible for project delivery with BAM International bringing invaluable skills in working in remote parts of the world.

The Antarctic construction projects will present unique challenges given the continent is the highest, driest, coldest and windiest on Earth, and most construction work will need to be completed during the four-month window of the Antarctic summer. Construction workers will live and work alongside science teams in harsh and remote environments, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures.

Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

"Key to the long-term success of science and innovation in the UK is ensuring our world-class research sector has the tools it needs to thrive on a global stage. The government's £200m investment on specialist research ships including RRS Sir David Attenborough underlines our commitment to this burgeoning sector and our upcoming industrial strategy will go even further, placing science and innovation at its absolute core."

Captain Tim Stockings, director of operations at BAS, said:

"This is an exciting moment for polar science. We are about to embark on a partnership to deliver a modernised Antarctic capability, which will involve changes to all five of our Antarctic research stations. This crucial work will enable our scientists to continue addressing issues of global importance. This investment means also that we can continue to improve our operational capability in the polar regions and in the UK."

NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

"The polar regions, although geographically remote, are of equal importance in our drive to understand how the Earth is changing. NERC science in Antarctica plays an important role in meeting this challenge. Working with BAM and design partner SWECO on this long-term approach to modernising our infrastructure in the Antarctic, we will jointly foster and further build the UK's high level of expertise, experience and good practices for working in challenging design and construction environments."

Stephen Fox CBE, chief executive of BAM Nuttall, said:

"We are delighted to have been awarded this prestigious contract from NERC and very much look forward to partnering with the technical and operational teams at British Antarctic Survey. The opportunity to apply our skills and capability in a remote environmentally-sensitive area gives our delivery team a unique and rewarding experience. This project will provide a great opportunity to showcase British innovation in digital design and manufacture. We are fully committed to developing our workforce and will look forward to involving our young engineers through apprenticeship and graduate programmes."

In addition to building a new wharf, storage and living quarters at Rothera, other Antarctic development projects that will be undertaken include modernising buildings and facilities at BAS stations in Signy (South Orkney Islands), Bird Island (South Georgia) and King Edward Point (South Georgia).


Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC news & media officer
01793 411939

Sarah Vincent
Senior communications manager
BAS
01223 221445
07850 541910

Peter Bishop
Head of corporate communications
BAM Nuttall Limited
01276 854708
07768005664


Notes

1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We co-ordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330m of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. The British Antarctic Survey, an institute of NERC, delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the polar regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the polar regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how, BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure, help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs.

3. Royal BAM Group has a rich history in all aspects of construction services. Established in 1869, the group has a turnover of about €7·4 billion (£5·4 billion - 2015) while employing over 21,000 people worldwide. These services include general building, marine works, infrastructure, tunnelling and industrial projects. Furthermore, BAM has a strong presence in public-private partnership projects. Operating company BAM International brings the construction and construction-related services of BAM outside its home countries; BAM Nuttall is the UK civil engineering specialist of the group. BAM brings innovative solutions to complex situations with great flexibility and high levels of quality, safety and corporate social responsibility.