THE Royal Navy’s replacement for the flood-damaged HMS Endurance has been formally commissioned into the fleet.
HMS Protector – the navy’s new ice patrol ship – was welcomed during a ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty.
The treaty protects the region’s environment from exploitation and the new vessel will be responsible for making sure it is enforced.
HMS Protector’s Commanding Officer, Captain Peter Sparkes, said: ‘This is a landmark and very proud day for the ship’s company of HMS Protector and the Royal Navy.
‘We have much to achieve in the coming months, but we will be ready in every respect to resume the UK’s sovereign presence in the British Antarctic and South Atlantic Territory.’
During the ceremony, Captain Sparkes read a Commissioning Warrant and the ceremony was rounded off in traditional Royal Navy fashion with the cutting of a commissioning cake.
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said Protector would be doing vital work.
‘The commissioning of this ship reaffirms the UK’s commitment to helping preserve the Antarctic as a natural reserve,’ he said.
‘She will carry out important work supporting the hydrographic and oceanographic work conducted in the region, which complements the international effort to continue to assess the impact of climate change.’
The 5,000-tonne vessel has been leased from Norwegian company GC Rieber Shipping for three years while the future of HMS Endurance – which almost capsized off Chile in 2008 after a major flood – is being considered.
Mr Luff said: ‘Doing it this way is a value for money option. The cost of making the necessary conversions was actually quite modest. We are still considering options for the fate of HMS Endurance.’
Protector’s other tasks will include supporting the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and following sea trials over the summer she will deploy in November for seven months.
The ceremony also included the naming of the ship’s survey motor boat James Caird IV by the Honourable Alexandra Shackleton – grandaughter of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Cadets from Portsmouth Grammar School also joined the guard and platoons from the ship’s company to parade during the ceremony.