HMS Protector will be Endurance replacement

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The Royal Navy has revealed it is replacing flood-damaged HMS Endurance with an icebreaker to be named HMS Protector.

A ship is being lined up to perform Endurance's ice patrol duties in the Antarctic after she almost sank two years ago.

A spokeswoman confirmed the service has put out a commercial tender for an icebreaker.

She said: 'An advert was placed with the European Journal of Contracts asking for expressions of interest.

'The new ship will be named HMS Protector. She will be based in Portsmouth and will be able to fulfil the same tasks as HMS Endurance.'

One contender is understood to be a Norwegian ship based in North America. But the navy refused to confirm this, saying the tender process has not been completed.

The official plan is to lease the ship as talks drag on over whether to fork out an estimated 40m to repair Endurance. However, naval sources say the loan deal will be made permanent when officials decide to publicly announce Endurance will be axed.

Endurance almost sank off the coast of Chile in December 2008. A 15-month investigation revealed the flood was caused by a valve opening as crew made a filter change.

The ship was carried back home to Portsmouth on a transport ship from the Falkland Islands in April 2009 at a cost of 4m.

Originally, the navy said it intended to repair the icebreaker but that now seems unlikely because of the costs involved.

In Endurance's absence, the navy deployed the ocean survey vessel HMS Scott as cover. But Scott does not have an icebreaker function, nor does she have the Lynx helicopters Endurance had.

With the need growing for greater exploration and mapping of unknown Antarctic waters, the navy decided to seek a proper replacement.

The new icebreaker will be the sixth navy ship to be named HMS Protector - a name which dates back to 1749. She is named after the fourth Protector, which was an Antarctic patrol ship that served from 1936 until 1970.

Keith Towle, chairman of HMS Protector Association who served as an Able Seaman on the previous vessel from 1965 to 1967, said: 'We are absolutely over the moon that the name lives on because the Protector we were on was sent to the big hole in the sky in 1970 and we all spent many happy years on her.'