Plymouth warships may be sunk as dive reefs
REDUNDANT Plymouth warships axed as part of sweeping military cutbacks could be sunk and turned into artificial underwater reefs.
The four former Devonport-based Type 22 frigates have been put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence.
Offers that will be considered for the 5,300 tonne vessels include them being scrapped and recycled, reused or sunk to become artificial reefs.
The Government's Disposal Services Authority (DSA), which is handling the sale of HMS Chatham, HMS Campbeltown, HMS Cumberland and HMS Cornwall, says it will award at least one of the ships to a UK ship recycler.
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"This is in part to secure detailed knowledge of the UK's capacity to recycle vessels," it said.
The deadline for expressions of interest is January 23, with viewings for those invited to bid being held in February and March.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View and Shadow Defence Minister, said: "It's incredibly poignant when a ship goes out of service."
For many, particularly those that served on them, the scrapping of the long-serving vessels would be a sad moment.
She added: "However, the Government has a duty when they do sell equipment to get best value. One would hope this government, particularly given the need to maximise capital receipts, will be looking to get the best value for those vessels."
But there would be a reluctance by many for the ships, designed to protect UK shores, being sold to a foreign navy.
"Using one as a reef may be a popular thing to do," Ms Seabeck said.
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. They are currently moored in Portsmouth Harbour.
Last year, Defence Minister Philip Dunne held out the prospect of one of the four 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 came after the Government announced it was selling the iconic vessel to a Turkish scrap metal firm in a £3 million deal.
Back in 2004, the decommissioned Royal Navy warship HMS Scylla was sunk off Whitsand Bay in Cornwall, and has been a popular dive destination.