BROADCASTING legend and world-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough returns to Cammell Laird this weekend to launch the next stage of work on a new polar research ship named after him.

The 129-metre long, 10,000 tonne hull of RRS Sir David Attenborough will be launched into the River Mersey at midday on Saturday.

Once in the river, tugs will tow hull number 1390 to Laird's wet basin for the next stages of construction.

There will be no public access to Cammell Laird for the event.

The best viewing points for the slipway launch are the Albert Dock and Otterspool Park on the Liverpool side of the Mersey.

The event will also be live-streamed from 11am on the BAS website: with the ‘Splashdown’ at 12.20pm.

Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council, built by Cammell Laird engineers and operated by British Antarctic Survey, the £200m research ship will be one of the most advanced in the world and is due to set sail next year.

Scientific research conducted onboard will ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of polar science.

It is the largest commercial shipbuilding project at a UK shipyard for 30 years.

Looking ahead to Saturday's launch, Sir David - who attended the keel-laying ceremony at Cammell Laird marking the start of work on the vessel in 2016 - said: "Britain began exploring the Antarctic over a century ago when it seemed to be an empty wilderness of little importance to the world as a whole.

"Now we recognise that what happens at the Poles is of the greatest importance to everyone, everywhere.

"The UK and the British Antarctic Survey have been making discoveries in both regions that enable us to better understand these global processes and this wonderful new research ship will enable British scientists to continue their crucial work in both the Arctic and Antarctic for decades to come."

The decision to name it RRS Sir David Attenborough was made in 2016 by then Science Minister Jo Johnson, following a public vote staged by NERC beating its nearest rival, Boaty McBoatface.

Shipyard workers, engineers, scientists and maritime industry experts join special guest speakers, including Sir David, to celebrate this remarkable engineering achievement.

Viewing vantage points, from promenades at Liverpool’s Albert Dock and Otterspool Park, will provide opportunities for members of the public to join the celebration.

Laird's chief executive John Syvret CBE, said: "The launch of the RRS Sir David Attenborough is a really important milestone in the build programme, and it is a great day for the Cammell Laird team.

"We have said that this Cammell Laird generation is proud of its heritage and is determined make its own history, and the launch of Sir David Attenborough Polar Research Ship underpins this commitment and ambition.

"I want to thank NERC, British Antarctic Survey, Rolls Royce, Lloyds Register, Houlder Offshore and the entire supply chain for their commitment and support.

"This is one team, 'team UK' working in partnership to deliver a unique ship with unique capabilities and capacity.

"I also want to thank our workforce and their families as well as Wirral Borough Council, the Rt Hon Frank Field and all in the community who have supported Cammell Laird on our journey to date.

"We are now back in the premier league of the shipbuilding world, it has been a herculean effort by all to get here, this launch raises the brand profile and as a result provides increased global recognition, which bodes well for the future."

Keynote speaker the Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth says: "This incredibly exciting event marks the next stage in the construction of this remarkable new polar research ship.

"The Government’s £200m investment in polar research will allow us to gain a crucial insight into polar oceans to combat the devastating effects of climate change, and through our commitment to clean growth, we are putting vital science and innovation to mitigate global warming at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Professor Sir Mark Walport, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: "The work of Sir David has engaged millions of people across the planet with these issues and their impact. The research ship named in his honour will make a vital contribution to addressing them."

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey, says: "This is a fantastic moment for all of us. At British Antarctic Survey our scientists, engineers, and support teams – especially those mariners and project managers who have been working closely with the amazing teams at Cammell Laird - are tremendously excited to reach this milestone.

"It is an incredible achievement, and one that everyone in the country can be proud of."