In 1872 HMS Challenger set sail on a voyage of discovery that marked the beginning of the scientific discipline of oceanography. Since that time, the capability to deploy scientists at sea has been at the centre of marine research. Today, NERC provides the UK science community with access to three global class research ships: the RRS James Cook, RRS Discovery and RRS Sir David Attenborough. A research ship capability will remain a vital part of NERC’s future research infrastructure. The FMRI programme is looking beyond the current fleet to shape a sustainable future for the UK’s research ship capability.

Workstream Objectives

During the business case development phase, the objectives of the FMRI Research Ship Capabilities workstream are to:

  • Understand the different options for maintaining science capability through life extension of the RRS James Cook and the interim investments required to keep this option open.
  • Explore the likely capabilities and performance of a future research ship and determine its estimated cost.
  • Prime ship technology developments that can meet any requirement for reduced crew and science complements.
  • Continue to invest in the National Marine Equipment Pool ship systems required to support the current marine facilities programme.

Workstream Lead: FMRI Lead Engineer


Maintaining the UK’s global leading position in marine research to understand the science of the planet’s oceans will continue to need powerful multi-disciplinary vessels. New fuels and propulsion technologies will be required to advance this vital work in a zero carbon way.

Andy Jeffries (NERC), FMRI Ships Theme Lead (2023)


Funded Projects →


Useful Resources

This report summarizes the outcomes of the Future Ship Technologies work package of the Net-Zero Oceanographic Capability scoping study.