Old warship unlikely to stay afloat as hotel

By Ian Stuart

Converting the navy's last steam frigate into a floating hotel has been suggested as one option for the 36-year-old warship Canterbury, now sitting dead in the water at the Devonport Naval Base.

However, the old Leander-class steam frigate, launched in Scotland in May 1970, is unlikely to host paying guests as a hotel because of the cost of keeping her afloat.

The 3000-tonne ship was decommissioned a year ago as the navy's last steam ship and has been sitting alongside at the Devonport Naval Base ever since.

The ship's boilers have not been fired up since it was decommissioned. However it was connected to the base's shore power, had its fire main charged and ready to be used and had regular safety inspections, the navy said today.

The ship is for sale by tender and would be sold for scrap or sunk as a dive attraction, as was its sister ship, the former HMNZS Wellington which was sunk at Island Bay in the capital after a trust bought it from the Government for $1.

The navy has advertised for anyone interested in buying Canterbury and that process closes next month.

The Government is then likely to decide if it will be sunk or sold for scrap.

The navy said today it had had a lot of interest from organisations interested in sinking or scrapping the ship.

The navy said it had also been asked speculatively about keeping it as a floating hotel although the cost of keeping the old ship afloat and watertight was expected to be huge.

Shortly before it was decommissioned, the ship had several hull plates replaced because they were badly corroded and the navy said it was not safe to put to sea.

In late 2004 the navy put the ship into dry dock for an inspection to see if its useful life could be extended beyond its retirement date but found the corrosion in some hull and deck plates was far worse than expected.

Because of the condition of the ship, keeping it afloat as a hotel was thought to be beyond the resources of a private company without the navy's help.

If Canterbury is sunk, it will not be with its main gun. The twin 4.5-inch main turret was removed and will go to the new naval museum in Auckland.

If it is sunk, it will be the fourth navy ship sitting on the seabed around the coast of New Zealand as dive attractions.

The old navy ship Tui and the Leander-class frigate Waikato were both sunk off the Northland coast several years ago.

Wellington was sunk last November but stormy seas broke in into three pieces earlier this year.

However, even when Canterbury is sunk or scrapped, the name will live on.

The navy has announced its new multi-role vessel, one of a fleet of seven new ships, will be named HMNZS Canterbury. The new ship was due to arrive in the country late this year or early next year.

- NZPA

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