THE Ministry of Defence is holding a fire sale of three old warships to make space to store vessels axed under defence cuts.
The old Exeter, Southampton and Nottingham, which have been out of service for two years, are being sold before more ships arrive at the ‘graveyard’ moorings off Whale Island.
The Type 42 destroyers are for sale as one lot on the MoD’s ebay-style website edisposals.com.
It comes after Falklands aircraft carrier HMS Invincible was sold to a Turkish scrap merchant this week.
The ships need to be sold before HMS Ark Royal, four Type 22 frigates and two more old Type 42s are sent to the graveyard this year.
Steve Bush, editor of Warship World, said: ‘These ships are beyond their service life and it’s clear they need to go to make room for all the other ships that are coming in to be sold off.
‘Ark Royal in particular will take up quite a lot of space so they need to get rid of them.’
It’s going to be a busy time for the MoD’s disposal team. Axed carrier HMS Ark Royal and Type 42 destroyer HMS Manchester will be decommisioned next month, HMS Gloucester leaves service this summer and four Type 22 frigates will also be sent to Portsmouth later this year.
HMS Liverpool will be decommissioned next year – leaving just HMS Edinburgh and HMS York as the last Type 42s until they bow out in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
A navy source said: ‘If we don’t get shot of them, they’ll be queuing up in the harbour.’
The old Type 42 destroyers were not axed – they are being phased out in place of six new Type 45 destroyers.
HMS Daring, Dauntless and Diamond have already been delivered to Portsmouth. The remainder – Dragon, Defender and Duncan – are all due to be in service by 2013.
Exeter, which was commissioned in 1980, served in the Falklands in 1982 and Kuwait in 1991.
Southampton was commissioned in 1981 and famously collided with a merchant container ship in the Straits of Hormuz in 1988. In 2006, she seized almost four tonnes of cocaine while operating in the Caribbean.
Nottingham, commissioned in 1983, almost sank in 2002 when she ran aground off the coast of Australia. She was back at sea two years later after a £39m repair and refit but was mothballed in 2008 and has not sailed since.
The closing date for bids on the Type 42s is March 24.
Turkish firm Leyal Ship Recycling, which won the contract to scrap HMS Invincible, is understood to be interested in making a bid. The same firm scrapped Type 42s HMS Cardiff, Glasgow and Newcastle in 2008.
The Ministry of Defence refused to say how much money the three destroyers are likely to fetch and whether they will go for scrap metal.
It will not confirm how much Invincible sold for until the deal is signed.