Floating Royal Navy museum HMS Caroline could be moved from Belfast to Portsmouth

A WARSHIP that took part in the First World War’s largest naval battle may need to be towed from Belfast to Portsmouth due to ‘serious concerns’ about its state of repair.

By Richard Lemmer
Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 9:33 am

HMS Caroline, a light cruiser that took part in the Battle of Jutland, has been docked in Belfast since 1924 and had operated as a floating museum before closing due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Now the National Museum of the Royal Navy may be forced to intervene and move its closed tourist attraction, according Dr Tim Schadla-Hall, the chairman of the HMS Caroline Preservation Society, who expressed his concerns to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week.

Lockdown has seen an underwater hull survey and maintenance work delayed as staff have been placed on furlough, according to Dr Schadla-Hall.

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Historic warship HMS Caroline may need to be moved from Belfast to Portsmouth.

In a statement, Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds said: ‘I decided to extend the current period of closure of the attraction, caused by the Covid-19 crisis, until December 31.

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‘My department agreed with NMRN that they would provide the necessary maintenance services for the ship during the period of temporary closure and that we would meet agreed costs.

‘We will endeavour to keep this period of temporary closure to a minimum and will use it to examine in detail all options and costs for the future of the attraction, taking into account the need to ensure best value for the use of public money.

‘I remain committed to exploring all options to enable this important heritage attraction to remain in Belfast.’

The situation the historic warship finds itself in is a ‘debacle’, according to Steve Aiken, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

He said: ‘That the minister is shutting down the ship at the same time as her own department attempts to maintain and bolster our Northern Ireland tourism and visitor attractions simply beggars belief.

‘Next year will probably be marked by HMS Caroline being towed away to Portsmouth.’

The National Museum of the Royal Navy was approached for comment.

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