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Research ships and supporting facilities

NERC owns several research ships that undertake multi-disciplinary science.

As well as owning and running some of the most well-known research ships in the world we provide access to a range of other marine facilities and equipment.

NERC new polar research vessel: Progress update, May 2016

NERC's new £200m state-of-the-art polar research ship is to be named after world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

Ships operated by National Marine Facilities - Sea Systems (NMF-SS)

RRS Discovery

RRS Discovery

RRS Discovery

RRS James Cook

RRS Discovery ship information and specifications (PDF, 281KB)

RRS James Cook ship information and specifications (PDF, 139KB)


Colin Day
Programme manager
NMF-Sea Systems
023 8059 6109

Ships operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

RRS James Clark Ross

RRS James Clark Ross

RRS Ernest Shackleton

RRS Ernest Shackleton

RRS James Clark Ross ship information and specifications - external link

RRS Ernest Shackleton ship information and specifications - external link


Randolph Sliester
Ships programme & operations manager
British Antarctic Survey
01223 221456

NERC recognised facility

RV Prince Madog

RV Prince Madog

RV Prince Madog ship information and specifications (PDF) - external link

Ownership of the RV Prince Madog is via a joint venture between the University of Wales Bangor (UWB) and P&O Maritime Services - external link - known collectively as P&O Maritime Ocean Sciences (POMOS).

Applications to use the RV Prince Madog must cover all costs associated with use of the vessel. Funds may be applied for from NERC or from other funding sources. Support from NMF-SS is available for cruises on RV Prince Madog and must be costed into research grant applications in discussion with the NMF-SS programme manager (Colin Day - ). If you require costs, they should be requested at least two months prior to the grant application submission deadline.


Queries relating to the vessel, facilities, equipment and technical support should in the first place be directed to:

Jim Maitland
UK operations manager
P&O Maritime
01502 509077

For NERC enquiries relating to RV Prince Madog, please contact:

Debbie Mason
01793 411667

International barter arrangements

NERC's barter arrangements provide the science community with access to a variety of international marine facilities, allowing for no-cost exchanges of ship time on 39 research ships and marine facilities such as manned submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, multi-channel seismic streamers, towed arrays and shipboard surveying systems. This promotes a more efficient and cost-effective use of each country's resources through access to a wider range of facilities and geographical areas than would otherwise be possible.

Scientists who are interesting in utilising these barter arrangements should, in the first instance, contact:

Natalie Clark
Marine planning officer
01793 442551

Background to OFEG

UK-France-Germany-The Netherlands-Norway-Spain

Since 1996 NERC has had a tri-partite barter arrangement with Germany and France, which led to the establishment of a Marine Facilities Tripartite Group (MFTG) comprising the managers and planners of the respective research ships and marine facilities who meet twice a year to barter ship-time and exchange marine equipment.

In 2002, the Netherlands became a full member of the group and in 2006 Spain and Norway also joined, creating what is now known as the Ocean Facilities Exchange Group (OFEG).

OFEG represents Europe's leading oceanographic research organisations and provides a forum to consider barter exchange and co-operation opportunities for the Global and Ocean Class research fleet. OFEG aims to maximise the overall scientific output using its state-of-the-art facilities in support of the worldwide oceanographic community.

More information on facilities available for barter can be found on the OFEG website - external link.


Since the mid-1980s, NERC has had a bi-lateral barter arrangement with the National Science Foundation (NSF), providing access to marine facilities programmed by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), who schedule scientific cruises aboard 27 research vessels located at 20 operating institutions in the USA.

More information on these facilities can be found on the UNOLS website - external link.