A CAMPAIGN group is trying to bring HMS Plymouth back to the UK in an 11th-hour legal bid.
The historic Royal Navy vessel, which used to be based in Portsmouth and served in the Falklands conflict, is currently en route to Turkey to be scrapped.
But members of HMS Plymouth Trust Limited have managed to raise £5,000 to secure help from a maritime legal specialist in Plymouth to support their case. The barrister is poised to start a legal battle in the High Court.
The group wants to argue that Peel Ports, which owns the berth the vessel had been using in Birkenhead, Merseyside, is not the ship’s owner.
If it can prove the trust is in fact the owner, the business has no right to scrap the ship.
As reported in The News on Saturday, the Type 12 Rothesay class anti-submarine frigates is being transported by tugboat to Turkey.
Trust chairman Laurence Sharpe-Stevens said members are confident they can bring the ship back to land with the help of their barrister.
‘We contacted a firm in Plymouth and said we needed their help,’ he said. ‘They told me they would need £5,000 in the morning. This was about seven o’clock in the evening
‘I went away and we only had a few hundred pounds.
‘Within 18 hours we managed to get the money together. It is only since that appeal online that we have had a proper barrister who deals with maritime issues. He thinks we have got a strong case.
‘We are a major shareholder of the ship. We could be the owner by default so they should have offered the ship to us.
‘It’s very likely that we are the owners so we need to get the court order to stop the ship leaving British waters.
‘At the moment, she is off the coast of Cardiff.
‘We could end up in a situation where we have a Royal Navy ship arresting a former Royal Navy warship.
‘We are feeling very confident that we have got evidence and they are not the owners.’
A spokesman for Peel Ports Group said the ship became the company’s ‘legal responsibility’ when its former owner, The Historic Warships Preservation Trust, went into liquidation in 2006.
‘We are very sympathetic to the historical significance of the vessel but no public or private body has come forward with a feasible plan to maintain, restore or remove her during the past seven years.’