Scrapped frigate may be sunk to create dive site
A PLYMOUTH warship scrapped as part of sweeping military cutbacks could be sunk for use as a dive wreck off the South Devon coast, the Government has indicated.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne held out the prospect of one of the four redundant Devonport-based Type 22 Frigates being turned into an artificial reef off Torbay, after campaigners failed to secure the former Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal.
He said the vessels might be more suited to the purpose than the 22,000-ton aircraft carrier.
It was earlier this week the Government announced it was selling the iconic vessel to a Turkish scrap metal firm in a £3 million deal.
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The "Wreck the World" organisation had been vying to turn it into a diving reef. Other bids received for alternative uses for the ship included turning it into a helipad in the Thames, a museum, and a casino.
But these were "…judged either not feasible or appropriate, or carried too much risk".
In a letter to Conservative MP for Totnes Dr Sarah Wollaston, who had demanded detailed feedback on the reasons behind the decision, the Minister said 'recycling' had been judged "…the most viable option".
But he went on: "On a more positive note, a number of Type 22 Frigates, which might be more suitable for use as dive wrecks, are due to leave service with the Royal navy over the next two years.
"These ships will be declared surplus to defence requirements in due course and it is highly likely that they will be offered for commercial sale.
"Of course, any such sales would need to be the subject of full and open competitions."
While expressing disappointment that the bid to turn Ark Royal into a dive wreck had been unsuccessful, Dr Wollaston notes: "The final point in the Minister's letter does at least open the possibility of a Type 22 Frigate being made available in the future."
Even before the carrier setback, Wreck the World already had plans to try and secure one of the decommissioned frigates.
All four of Plymouth's Type 22s were mothballed as part of the biggest round of cuts to the military since the end of the Cold War.
In his letter to the MP, the Minister revealed there had been 40 expressions of interest in Ark Royal, and that 17 proposals were submitted – 10 to recycle and seven for re-use.
Mr Dunne wrote: "While the financial benefits of selling HMS Ark Royal were an important consideration, it was not the only one. Others included the feasibility and environmental implications of each proposal and the track record and ability of bidders to implement their ideas successfully in the event they won the competition."
He went on: "It was concluded that the level of risk and uncertainty inherent in the 'Wreck the World' bid – and indeed all of the further use options– was too great and that recycling the ships was the most viable option." Back in 2004, the decommissioned Royal Navy warship HMS Scylla was sunk off Whitsand Bay in Cornwall, and has been a popular dive destination.