Plans to turn the former Royal Navy HMS Ark Royal into an artificial reef are being backed by one of the previous captains of the ships, Rear Admiral Terry Loughran.
Loughran said that he would rather see the ship used as an attraction for scuba diving enthusiasts than see it end up in a foreign scrap yard like its sister ship, HMS Invincible, which was sold for nearly £2 million to a Turkish scrap firm.
The Ministry of Defence have not yet confirmed plans for the ship but many are hoping that the bid by a charity called Wreck the World will be successful and the 210-metre-long vessel will be sunk in the waters off the south Devon coast so divers can use if for wreck diving excursions.
Image by Rob_Pennycook, on Flickr
Loughran served as the captain on the warship from 1993 to 1994 during the conflict in Bosnia. He commented: “Whilst I’m still very sad to see the passing of what was a very fine ship which suffered a premature demise, I’d much rather see her have a proper burial at sea where she will bring years of joy for enthusiasts than have those terrible images of her being broken up in a foreign scrap yard.”
The Ark Royal was advertised for sale on the MoD’s auction website last year after it was decommissioned three years early as part of the government’s defence cuts in 2010.
Wreck the World, is operated by scuba diving instructor Michael Byfield, and his colleague James Doddrell. The charity has received £6.5 million from two companies to back its bid to make it a scuba diving attraction in Devon. The scrap metal firm GH Newbery and Son have agreed to buy the ship for £3.5 million and the defence engineering firm, AandP Falmouth, have agreed to act as the £3 million financial guarantor.
Image by : DWestland, on Flickr
If the bid is successful, they ship could be sunk as soon as this summer. The artificial reef project is being backed by Torbay Council in Devon who estimates that the wreck could bring in about £30 million over five years for the local economy. The underwater attraction could become one of the leading scuba diving destinations in the UK.
Image by : mbasile, on Flickr
Aside from providing a new wreck for scuba diving holidays, other proposals for the ship include a nightclub or school in China, a casino in Hong Kong and a commercial heliport in London. The decision is expected to be made within the next few weeks.