THE Wirral-built polar research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough has returned to Cammell Laird shipyard ahead of its maiden voyage to Antarctica.

Built in honour of the broadcasting legend, it sailed along the Mersey and into drydock at the Birkenheads yard on Thursday after sea trials.

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It left Lairds in October for 14 days of technical trials off the coast of North Wales.

It was then off to Holyhead Port for 50 days' intensive training, before embarking on operational and scientific equipment trials around the Irish Sea.

The ship is preparing to undertake ice trials in the Arctic, and in November will make its maiden voyage to Antarctica.

The start of sea trials is a major milestone in the four-year build programme, and an exceptional achievement for Cammell Laird.

Unveiled during a ceremony at the Birkenhead yard in 2019, it is scheduled to enter full service in November, when it will be formally handed over to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the naming ceremony of the polar research ship in 2019 (Picture: Peter Byrne / PA WIRE)

Its missions are critical for understanding and making sense of our changing climate.

More than 4,000 people watched the ship's unveiling at Cammell Laird in September last year, celebrating the end of work on the vessel.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended, along with Sir David, who said it was the "greatest possible honour" for the ship to carry his name.

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Duke of Cambridge tests the captain's chair on bridge of RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship during private tour with the Duchess, Kate Middleton, during its in unveiling in 2019. Picture: Craig Manning

Highlighting its importance, he added: "It's no news to any of you that the world is facing great, great problems and the most aware of that are the young people of today, who will inherit this world.

"Great problems require great research and facts in order to solve them.

"That's what this astonishing ship will be here to do, to find out the facts and find the science with which to deal with problems that are facing the world today and will increasingly do so tomorrow.

"There could be no more important function for any ship, anywhere in the world, than those which are going to be dealt with by this remarkable ship, at the cutting edge of science."

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