Construction of a polar research ship, which shot to fame amid calls to name the vessel Boaty McBoatface, is getting under way.

Naturalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough, after whom it was ultimately decided the ship should be named, will initiate the laying of the first block of the keel.

The keel-laying is a traditional maritime ceremony to bring good luck to a vessel during her construction and her captain and crew during her life.The £200 million ship has been commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is being built in the UK at Cammell Laird on Merseyside in the largest commercial shipbuilding project in the country in 30 years.

Once she sets sail in 2019, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will provide the UK with the most advanced floating research fleet in the world and will conduct research into the world's oceans and tackling climate change, the research council said.

The ship first grabbed headlines after a "name our ship" competition, in which the suggestion Boaty McBoatface topped the public poll with more than 124,000 votes, more than three times its nearest rival.

The final decision on the name was made by Science Minister Jo Johnson, and the announcement the vessel would be called after Sir David was made just days before the veteran broadcaster's 90th birthday.