A new state-of-the art research vessel is to be named after the Irish polar explorer Tom Crean.

The €25m vessel has been commissioned by the Marine Institute and will replace the current research vessel, the Celtic Voyager.

RV Tom Crean has been designed by a Norwegian firm and is currently under construction in northern Spain.

The new 52.8 metre ship will be based in Galway and will engage in important fisheries and oceanographic and environmental research.

Capital funding for the project has been provided by the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The new vessel will honour the celebrated Kerry seaman and polar explorer.

Crean was a central figure in the golden age of polar exploration in the early 20th century.

He was involved in three expeditions to Antarctica between 1901 and 1917.

Crean was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving for his extraordinary feats of courage during the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition.

The design of RV Tom Crean incorporates the latest technologies allowing for greater fuel efficiency and reducing the vessel's environmental impact and carbon footprint. 

Project manager at the Marine Institute, Aodhán Fitzgerald said RV Tom Crean will greatly enhance research capabilities.

"It will bring a whole new level of marine science to the nation. It's a bigger and more capable vessel than the smaller Celtic Voyager that it's replacing, so it will be able to handle bigger seas and operate year round of the west coast.

"This vessel will be able to accommodate more scientists as well as newer and more specialised equipment and technology," said Mr Fitzgerald. 

RV Tom Crean will continue with the work currently being undertaken by the Celtic Voyager, including the Infomar project, which is engaged in mapping the seabed.

Using underwater vision technology the ship will also conduct important surveys of fish stocks in the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea and on the Porcupine Banks.

The vessel will also be utilised in servicing the Irish weather buoy network and will provide very important training for third-level students of marine science and other disciplines.

Construction of the ship is under way in Vigo in northern Spain, with a completion date set for August of this year.

The Marine Institute hopes to have the vessel fully-fitted and operational by summer 2022. 

A member of the project's oversight committee, Lorcán Ó Cinnéide, said the decision to name the new vessel after Kerry's polar hero is an apt one.

He said: "It's a state-of the art vessel that is going to be conducting extraordinary, cutting-edge research of international importance in Irish seas.

"It's named after a man who explored in the most distant, difficult and unreachable places in the early part of the 20th century.

"I think there is a fantastic meeting of values in the selected name. It is a fitting tribute to the man and I think it's highly appropriate as an inspiration for the scientists who will be using that vessel."

The South Pole Inn in Annascaul

News of the naming of the new vessel received a warm welcome in Crean's native village of Annascaul today.

Local man John Hanafin said it was "high time" Crean received the "official recognition he deserves".

"We're absolutely delighted. Tom Crean is finally being given official, national recognition for his brave deeds. Tom Crean is a legendary figure.

"We feel it's very appropriate that the new vessel will carry his name, considering the hardship he had to endure on the southern oceans over a hundred years ago. We're extremely proud in Annascaul," he said.