POLAR research vessel HMS Protector returns to Teesside this week for upgrades and repairs in the next stage of a £150m contract at thriving UK Docks.

The icebreaker is due to arrive on the high tide on Friday but it will have company, with both dry docks currently servicing ships.

UK Docks’ managing director Harry Wilson said: “It’s a great sight to see the yards full and a busy order book stretching out for much of the rest of the year.

“When we took what was a very big decision in 2014 to re-open docks on Teesside which had been mothballed for 30 years, this is the outcome that we originally dreamt of - a busy order book, both yards full and more to come.”

HMS Protector, which arrived on the Tees for the first time last May, is one of three Royal Navy supply chain vessels that will be serviced on the Tees over the next decade.

HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise - sister ships which deliver defence, global environmental data-gathering requirements and associated war roles - were also serviced at the Docks last year.

HMS Protector provides a UK presence in the British Antarctic Territory and meets the UK’s treaty obligations for inspections, hydrographical charting and support of scientific research.

It can also be called upon to operate in the tropics but it will be on Teesside over the summer undergoing major upgrades and repairs before returning to sea in the Autumn.

Currently, UK Docks is completing work on two other vessels.

They are the 89-metre Trinity House vessel, Patricia - a multi-functional vessel which operates around the UK coast and the 70-metre, Putford Viking, an offshore standby vessel which supports operations in the North Sea oil rigs.

Both are undergoing dry-docking for maintenance, upgrades, classification and survey requirements.

Further ships are also due to be docked over the summer for similar work.

It’s a remarkable success story for the Tyne-based company, which began life in a small boatyard in South Shields just under 25 years ago but which has grown to become a national and international organisation operating around the globe.

Director Jonathan Wilson, son of founder, Harry, said: “It’s great to see this major Ministry of Defence contract operating as it should do and we’re very proud that we have shown, over a few years now, we have the professionalism and expertise to rise to the Royal Navy’s expectations.

“From a UK Docks point of view, it’s fantastic to see the dry docks at Middlesbrough full of work and activity benefiting workers and families in the North East.’’