Frigate sale raises hopes for dive wreck
By Western Morning News | Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 06:30
Local MPs have welcomed the prospect of creating a dive wreck off the south Devon coast after it was announced that axed Westcountry warships could be sunk and turned into artificial reefs.
It came after campaigners failed to secure the former Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal for the purpose last year.
At the time the Defence Minister Philip Dunne held out the prospect of one of the four Type 22 frigates being turned into an artificial reef off Torbay.
The MoD has now put up for sale the four redundant vessels, mothballed as part of sweeping military cutbacks, that were based at Devonport Naval Base.
Offers that will be considered for the 5,300 tonne ships include 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.
The deadline for expressions of interest is January 23, with viewings in February and March for those invited to bid. All four of the Type 22s, once base-ported along the coast at Plymouth, 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.
It was last year the Government announced it was selling the Ark Royal to a Turkish scrap metal firm in a £3 million deal.
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 they were "…judged either not feasible or appropriate, or carried too much risk".
On the latest news of frigates' sale and possible use as a dive wreck Lib Dem MP for Torbay Adrian Sanders said: "I think it's a more realistic option than the Ark Royal. I think it's a goer."
Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View and Shadow Defence Minister Alison Seabeck said that although ministers had to look for best value from frigate sell-offs "using one as a reef may be a popular thing to do".
Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston said: "I fully support Wreck the World in their ambition to bring exciting new diving opportunities to Torbay. I look forward to hearing the outcome of their bid."