Former Conservative leadership contender Penny Mordaunt has unveiled plans for three multi-purpose ships to “fly the flag” for the UK.
The ships, which would be built in British shipyards, would be capable of performing a range of roles from disaster relief to research, ocean clean-up, operations to tackle illegal migration, hospital and medical training capability, as well as communication and accommodation.
Unlike Boris Johnson’s £250 million plan for a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, the proposed vessels would be commercially built and operated and funded exclusively by the private sector.
The Portsmouth North MP said: “The UK is a proud maritime nation, whose expertise is recognised and respected around the world.
“These multi-purpose ships seek to build on this by providing additional capacity to our existing fleets to deliver additional training, scientific research and disaster relief, while giving businesses space to show off innovative British products and services.
“They are not designed merely to replicate what we had in the past, but are based on a serious and detailed assessment of what the country needs in the future in a cost-effective way by working closely with the private sector.
“These ships will fly the flag for the UK and will provide important additional resources for humanitarian relief and scientific research.
“Their construction and maintenance will benefit the whole maritime sector, providing vital opportunities to train the next generation of shipwrights, captains, navigators and engineers.
“They will benefit regions across the UK, including in my constituency of Portsmouth North, whose port and maritime sector will I hope play an important role in the life of these vessels for years to come.
“I understand the comparisons to Britannia having grown up in the home port of Portsmouth. She was iconic. If Britannia were around today this is what she’d be doing – showcasing the best of what our nation has to offer and working in partnership internationally.”
Ms Mordaunt is working with Britannia Maritime Aid and other organisations to finalise the business plan for the ships, which would also act as a training platform for merchant mariners.
Although the Government would not be funding the vessels, they would be available as an additional maritime asset with lower operating costs than Royal Navy ships for some tasks.
The first of the ships is expected to cost £150 million with the other two expected to cost “significantly” less.
The vessels would be 135 metres in length with a breadth of 23.4 metres, and would be capable of speeds of 18 knots with a range of 6,000 nautical miles.
They would have 12000m3 of cargo space, capable of transporting 2,000 tonnes of aid, and would be able to accommodate more than 200 people including cadets, trainees and VIPs.
Mr Johnson’s national flagship plan, which was dismissed by critics as a “vanity project”, was finally sunk by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who prioritised funding to support Ukraine’s defence against the Russian invasion.