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New flagship vessel should be built in Belfast: naval architect

Harland and Wolff ‘would be very capable of building a prestigious ship of this scale’

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Boris Johnson. Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

Boris Johnson. Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

PA

Boris Johnson. Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

The naval architect who designed Cunard’s massive Queen Mary 2 ocean liner has backed Belfast’s Harland and Wolff yard to build a new UK flagship vessel aimed at promoting Britain around the world.

Stephen Payne — a past President of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects — has a proposal for a ship considerably bigger than the former royal yacht Britannia, decommissioned in 1997 after 43 years in service.

“My vision is for a British promotion ship encompassing exhibition, conference, trade, youth, cultural and tourism — which if built in Belfast, would showcase shipbuilding and capabilities in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Harland and Wolff are very capable of building a prestige ship of this scale.

“Infrastrata (the yard’s owners) come across as very dynamic.

“Something like this would be a tremendous opportunity for them.

“It is a comprehensive British promotion platform encompassing everything Britannia did and much more besides,” he said.

Dr Payne said his plan would enable the new ship to pay for itself over its working lifetime, rather than becoming a drain on the public purse. It would even feature a British pub, he said.

“Trade promotion would be at the fore, with an exhibition and conference centre augmented by a dedicated business suite of meeting rooms and secretarial/concierge support.

“A conference break-out room and a British pub would be provided for conference attendees, exhibitors and their guests and pre-booked visitors.

“Cabin accommodation for exhibitors and business executives would allow transportation between the ports of call and fulfil a sought after provision not available on Britannia.”

“I envisage the ship operating on a worldwide itinerary with 51 ports visited in a 330 day period, incorporating 150 conference days and 103 exhibition days.”

Dr Payne’s proposed ship would also feature public spaces for State entertaining and a secure royal deck.

“If the facilities can be hired out within reasonable limits the ship is self financing and a concept general arrangement of the ship has been prepared.

“Promotion of youth and youth groups, education, learning and British culture and tourism would also be part of the ship’s programme as she sails around the world”

Mr Payne said his proposal — which would require public funding — is not linked to yesterday’s report in the Sunday Telegraph that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering plans to replace the former royal yacht with a new vessel that could cost up to £200m.

The report said the new ship will be announced within weeks, is expected to be named the HMS Prince Philip and will be tasked with boosting British trade.

The vessel would reportedly be tasked with promoting British businesses overseas by mooring near international trade fairs, as well as hosting trade negotiations.

A No. 10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has an exciting vision for shipbuilding in this country and is committed to making the UK a shipbuilding superpower.

“We are always looking for new ways to promote Global Britain around the world, driving investment back to the UK and delivering value for money for the British people.”

Belfast Telegraph


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