Major milestone reached in Antarctic Modernisation

14 March 2019
A major milestone has been reached on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) new Antarctic Wharf project at Rothera Research Station. Following two months of deconstructing the old wharf, the first frame of the new 74-metre long wharf has been lowered into place. 
Frame Lowered onto Temporary Guides. Image: Alan Roper, Ramboll

Frame Lowered onto Temporary Guides. Image: Alan Roper, Ramboll

Dave Grove. Ramboll

Dave Grove

Director, and government lead
T: +44 7841 498 236

Over the weekend, divers completed the final part of the wharf deconstruction along the sea bed, making way for the first 55-tonne frame to be installed on Tuesday. Lowered carefully into position onto temporary guides from a 300-tonne crane, the operation took 12 hours. In relatively warm and sunny conditions, the team worked throughout the evening fine tuning the setting out of the frame to within 40mm tolerance. This precision engineering was critical to ensuring the alignment for the new wharf, which will provide safe berthing and efficient operations for the new RRS Sir David Attenborough.

In total 20 frames will make up the wharf’s skeleton, with seven due for installation during this construction phase that is being delivered by BAS’s Construction Partner BAM and Technical Advisor Ramboll. 

BAM Ian Wenkenbach Project Engineer said: “Two years of planning came to bear fruit yesterday, with the successful installation of the critical first frame. The full-scale trial assembly and lift undertaken back in September in the UK ensured that the operation here in Antarctica went according to plan.

“To install the frames, which form the skeleton of the new structure, we are using a hydraulic jacking system, a concept developed in-house to allow accurate levelling of the frames after installation, as well as specially designed lifting frames, support structures and access platforms”.


“There is a great sense of achievement here in Rothera at this crucial milestone as the deconstruction of the existing wharf makes way for construction of the new wharf. Overseeing yesterday’s successful operation was a very proud moment for all of the BAM, BAS and Ramboll team” comments Alan Roper, Ramboll Site Supervisor.

Importance of the new Antarctic Wharf

Operated by BAS, the new wharf at the Rothera Research station will provide safe berthing and efficient operations for the new 129-metre long Polar Research Vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough. 

The commissioning of the RRS Sir David Attenborough is part of a major government polar infrastructure investment programme designed to keep Britain at the forefront of world-leading research in Antarctica and the Arctic. This £200m commitment represents the UK government’s largest investment in polar science since the 1980s. It includes a raft of modernisation across the BAS estate. Supporting BAS is a Technical Advisor team led by Ramboll, which includes Turner & Townsend and NORR Architects, working alongside BAS’s Construction Partner BAM.

Project info

Ramboll. RRS Sir David Attenborough. Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey

Appointed by NERC as Technical Advisors to BAS (British Antarctic Survey), Ramboll is providing specialist engineering and consultancy services for seven years. Delivering a host of projects within the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP), BAS and its Technical Advisors (including NORR Architects and Turner & Townsend) are preparing for one of the world’s most advanced Polar research ships - the RRS Sir David Attenborough, which will be ready for operation from 2019.

Ramboll. Rothera Research Station Wharf. British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey - Rothera Research Station

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) to support world-class science through an upgrade of British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research stations and infrastructure includes preparations for one of the world’s most advanced Polar research ships - the RRS Sir David Attenborough. 

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