HMS Ark Royal’s future still undecided

DOCKED HMS Ark Royal in Portsmouth Naval Base.  Picture: Sarah Standing (121766-4163)
DOCKED HMS Ark Royal in Portsmouth Naval Base. Picture: Sarah Standing (121766-4163)

Government sells off HMS Ocean for £84m

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STILL no decision has been made on the future of the axed warship HMS Ark Royal, the Ministry of Defence has said.

One year after bidding closed for the Royal Navy’s former flagship, the MoD said it continues to mull over who to sell the 22,000-tonne aircraft carrier to.

In January, the MoD said an announcement would be made in ‘early 2012’.

But today, a spokesman said the decision was still ‘pending’ as a result of a high volume of bids for the ship, which was decommissioned three years early as part of the government’s 2010 defence cuts.

The spokesman said: ‘There’s not a hold up. I think we all know how much of a big deal this is and how many people want the chance of owning an iconic piece of equipment.

‘We’ve got to go through all the bids with a fine tooth comb. There was a lot of interest. For commercial reasons I can’t tell you how many bids there were, but there were a lot.’

She added: ‘There is an end in sight. We will make a formal decision in time but the process is ongoing.’

Labour’s shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy called on the government to ‘come clean’ today.

He said: ‘Everyone will want to know what this historic vessel is going to be used for and that the best value was achieved.

‘It is bad enough that ministers have degraded British power at sea, for example leaving us without planes on aircraft carriers for years, but hiding these plans is very disappointing.

‘The government appear embarrassed about the impact of their rushed defence review. If a decision has been made, ministers shouldn’t cover it up for political reasons. The public deserves openness.’

Ark Royal, which moored at Portsmouth Naval Base, could be sold for scrap metal like her sister ship HMS Invincible.

Other proposals include a commercial heliport in London, a nightclub and school in China and a casino in Hong Kong.

Another bid has come from Wreck the World, which aims to sink the ship off the coast of Torbay and use her as an attraction for scuba diving enthusiasts.

Michael Byfield, a diving instructor who runs Wreck the World with colleague James Doddrell, 31, claimed they received an email from the MoD several weeks ago regarding the sale.

He said: ‘They said they had made their decision and that they were presenting their findings to the minister and it is him making the decision.

‘As far as I know it is still for sale.’