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Natural Environment Research Council: Shipping

Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many ships and boats have been (a) owned, (b) leased and (c) hired by or on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in each of the last three financial years; how many operational days each of those vessels has spent at sea at the NERC’s expense; and how much the NERC spent on purchasing, hiring and leasing such vessels in each such year. (277261)

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) owns, leases and hires a number of vessels. These vessels are used for a number of purposes, including, for example, taking samples from lakes, and monitoring/surveying coastal areas. Data for ships (defined as a vessel above 40 tonnes and 40 feet in length) are provided in the following table.

Hire of smaller boats for activities such as lake sampling are arranged locally under NERC purchasing guidelines on best value for money but the information is not held centrally by NERC.

Operational Days1Cost of purchasing, hiring or leasing (£000)

Ship name

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

RRS James Cook2

Owned

3314

3557

3413

0

0

0

RRS Discovery2

Owned

3

3

3

0

0

0

RRS James Clark Ross4

Owned

294

336

267

0

0

0

RRS Ernest Shackleton4

Leased5

329

321

309

63,322

63,364

63,356

RV Prince Madog7

Hired

78

95

54

n/a

n/a

n/a

1 Data from NERC’s Ship Management Review, which reported to NERC Council in February 2009. A breakdown on days on Cook/Discovery was not recorded.

2 Operated by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS). RRS James Cook came into service in September 2006.

3 Denotes brace

4 Operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

5 Under a PFI arrangement.

6 Includes insurance costs.

7 The RV Prince Madog is a recognised NERC facility operated by VT Ocean Sciences and is available to the NERC community on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. NERC has no record of the precise costs, which are negotiated between scientists and the RV Madog operator within limits defined within research grants. The basic charter day rate cost is likely to have been in the region of £5,000 per day during this period.

As well as owning, leasing and hiring a number of boats and ships, NERC also has barter arrangements with other international operators of ocean-going research ships, which allows for NERC to use its partners’ research ships. These barter arrangements allow for the barter exchange of ship-time between partners without there being any transfer of money. In the calendar years 2006, 2007 and 2008, NERC used its barter arrangements to secure 118 days, four days, 72 days, respectively, of ship-time on its barter partners’ research ships. More information on the European barter arrangements can be found at:

http://www.noc.soton.ac.uk/ofeg/pages/ofeg/index.php