Frigates could see a new lease of life as artificial reefs

DECOMMISSIONED HMS Cumberland, HMS Cornwall, HMS Chatham and HMS Campbeltown.  Picture: Paul Jacobs  (123674-31)
DECOMMISSIONED HMS Cumberland, HMS Cornwall, HMS Chatham and HMS Campbeltown. Picture: Paul Jacobs (123674-31)

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FOUR decommissioned frigates could be cut up for scrap or used as artificial reefs under plans drawn up by the Ministry of Defence.

The Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support agency (DE&S) is now looking at what to do with the Type 22 frigates which are rusting away in Portsmouth Harbour.

HMS Cumberland, HMS Cornwall, HMS Chatham and HMS Campbeltown were all axed in the coalition government’s 2010 defence cuts.

The 5,300-tonne ships have since been moored in the area of Portsmouth Harbour known as Rotten Row, where decommissioned ships are put out to pasture. Now DE&S is preparing to host interested parties on board the ships in the next couple of months.

The government is hoping to see them either being kept intact and given a new use, cut up for scrap and recycled or sunk as artificial reefs.

The government’s Disposal Services Authority, which deals with the interest in the warships, says it will award at least one vessel to a UK ship recycler.

It is hoped this could boost knowledge of the country’s ability to recycle vessels. Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, a navy reservist who sits on the defence select committee, said she backed the ideas. ‘I think this is a good idea and I would support it,’ she said.

‘People want to get best value for the defence budget when these ships come to the end of their life, to make sure we get the most bucks back to get new kit and equipment for our armed forces.

‘People get quite sentimental about our ships and we like to think they will go on to do something that befits their long service. But you have to get good value.’

The Disposal Services Authority is planning to host viewings of the warships in the next two months.

The closing date for expression of interest in the warships is 5pm on January 23.

Commissioned in the late 1980s, the frigates were originally designed as a specialist anti-submarine platform but evolved into powerful surface ships armed with anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons systems.

They were committed to all operations, but were particularly useful in the Mediterranean because of their sophisticated listening and surveillance equipment.