The Royal Navy has a new interim Antarctic patrol vessel. The leased icebreaker was commissioned HMS Protector on 23 June, a date that coincided with the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the Antarctic Treaty. The ship had arrived in Portsmouth, still under the Norwegian flag, a month earlier following a rapid refit in Denmark during which the bridge roof-mounted helicopter pad was relocated over the stern and the main engines and gearboxes overhauled. A multi-beam echo sounder survey system was also fitted along with naval insignia.
HMS Protector was later equipped with a new survey motor boat and two Pacific 22 RIBs for her maiden deployment. The RIBs are to be replaced by a landing craft for ferrying stores and equipment ashore. The planned resupply of British Antarctic Survey scientific stations using all-terrain vehicles, along with the lack of an aircraft hangar, suggests the ship will not carry any helicopters.RN ships named Protector have a historic connection with the UK’s Antarctic commitment. The sixth ship to bear the name completed 13 Antarctic deployments between 1955 and 1968. The last, the former Seaforth Saga, served as a Falklands patrol vessel.