RRS Sir David Attenborough – navigating the tender phase

Houlder has been closely involved in the design, tender and construction of the RRS Sir David Attenborough over the last decade and has supported the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) – an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (UKRI-NERC) – throughoutPart one of this case study outlined the vessel design phase and highlighted Houlder’s specialist naval architecture and vessel efficiency expertise. This second part will focus on the tender phase of the project.

Viable concepts lead to strong bids 

The first step of the tender process, which began in 2015, was submitting tenders to all appropriate shipyards. Houlder used its concept design to verify that the statement of requirements for the vessel that shipyards were required to bid against was achievable and in line with the desired results. Due to the expert knowledge of the team and logical approach, numerous realistic bids were quickly received and these were within the expected budget. Having a good selection of bids is not always a certainty and companies often go through the entire tender process only to receive insufficient bids or bids which are too expensive, ultimately stalling progress. Independent, objective support from naval architects and engineers can ensure that a strong selection of realistic bids is received.

Technical assessment of bids

The tenders that were sent to shipyards included the statement of requirements, which outlined all of the functional requirements of the vessel. The team checked the shipyards’ proposals against this statement of requirements. It was important that, for example, the bids included the RRS Sir David Attenborough’s key efficiency features, such as the large energy storage system, which reduces fuel consumption. Houlder had previously worked with BAS to integrate these complex requirements into the concept design, while making sure that the vessel remained viable to build.

Houlder continued to support BAS in reviewing all of the tenders from around the world. Specifically, the team looked in detail at all of the technical design and engineering elements of the bids.

Jonathan Strachan, Newbuild and Vessel Conversion Director commented: “For operators that don’t often buy ships, design and engineering support in the tender process is a significantly valuable proposition and ensures the right decisions are made throughout the entire process. For specialist vessels, it’s not the same as buying an ‘off the shelf’ container ship – these vessels have unique requirements. You’re not just putting together a wish list; it’s key that the vessel concept is underpinned by feasible technical solutions. That way the specifications are achievable and delivered to the highest standard.”

Andy Jeffries Associate Director, Major Programmes Team Natural Environment Research Council, UK Research and Innovation said: “Involving Houlder from the beginning ensured the extensive process was built on reliable and expert foundations. We recognised the team’s extensive expertise in the design and engineering of specialist vessels. Their consultative, straight-talking approach proved invaluable throughout the tender process. We were pleased that Houlder went the extra mile to ensure that the RRS Sir David Attenborough included as many key features as possible while remaining a realistic vessel to build. We appreciated the results – strong bids from key shipyards.”

Independence and objectivity  

Analysing and assessing the bids received from shipyards is a critical step in the shipbuilding process. It is important to get the right advice to make sure a project is successful, both in meeting an expected budget and timeline, as well as the entire physical build process. Ultimately, alongside BAS, the Houlder team was integral in choosing which shipyard would build the RRS Sir David Attenborough. While Houlder has good relationships with shipyards, it operates and thinks independently. It has no parent company or financial affiliations with other organisations; allowing it the freedom to advise on what is best for clients without any conflicts of interest.

In 2015, Houlder subsequently helped negotiate a contract with Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine (which has since been acquired by Kongsberg) to build the vessel. The next part of this case study will focus on the construction phase.

To read more about Houlder’s specialist vessel design and engineering work, and it’s consultative approach to entire projects from concept to delivery, please visit: https://houlderltd.com/newsroom/


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