§ Dr. David Clark
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 11 May,Official Report, column 188, what consideration he gave before October 1991 to the replacement of HMS Endurance; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Hanley
The 1991 annual structural survey of HMS Endurance unexpectedly revealed a risk of hull failure in Antarctic or very cold conditions. The decision was therefore taken in August of that year to decommission the vessel. It had originally been assumed that HMS Endurance would continue in service until at least the middle of the 1990s, and planning for her replacement had therefore not commenced when this decision was taken.
As the Government were committed to maintain the programme previously carried out by HMS Endurance, a market survey was undertaken to investigate which suitable ships might be available to undertake the ice patrol task in the 1991–92 season. This survey identified MV Polar Circle as the only suitable ship, and she was accordingly taken up by the Ministry of Defence on a short-term bare boat charter while the requirement for a longer term replacement was being considered.