Boris Johnson’s vision of a new national flagship looks like a “fishing trawler from the 1950s”, a leading naval architect has said.
It comes after the prime minister announced last month that the £200 million vessel will reflect the UK’s “burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation”.
But Stephen Payne, who designed the British transatlantic ocean liner Queen Mary 2, was less excited about the plans, which he suggested are both unsuitable and likely to cost even more than initially thought.
He said: “The superstructure front, akin to a 1950s Hull trawler, is great for a fair-weather ship but not such a good idea for a global voyager crossing the Atlantic, Pacific, or even rounding the tip of Africa.
“As for financing this ship, there’s £200 million to find and I’d be surprised if the running costs weren’t £5 million a year.”
Chronic manpower shortage
According to The Independent, Payne doubts the flagship will be endorsed by the Royal Navy and the monarchists.
He said: “They say they’ll use a Royal Navy crew. Isn’t there a chronic manpower shortage within the service? Will the Navy look at this new vessel not with adoring eyes but with despair as it struggles to keep frontline ships at sea.
Payne thinks the country could do “something more ambitious”, but he said the plans he sent to the government for a Britannia 2 ship have been lost.
His vision would have involved a 475ft ship with a 250-seat auditorium, on-board pub, restaurant, TV studio, museum and souvenir shop.
It would have followed the HMY Britannia, also known as the Royal Yacht Britannia, launched in 1953 but decommissioned by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1997.
“Britannia’s importance stemmed from her royal status,” Payne said.
He added: “As a royal yacht, Britannia had an unambiguous cachet. Apart from her elegantly designed spaces, she had the Band of the Royal Marines and a hand-picked crew of more than 270.
“This package was what gave Britannia her standing, her prestige and the distinction which lured business on board.”
Upon announcing the government’s plans last month, Boris Johnson praised the future ship, saying it will “represent and promote the best of British”.
He labelled it a “clear and powerful symbol” of the government’s “commitment to be an active player on the world stage”.
But hundreds of people have expressed less positive views about Johnson’s plans.
Amongst them was a senior royal who reportedly told The Sunday Times that the ship is “too grand” a symbol for use by the monarchy in the modern age, adding: “It is not something we have asked for”.
And Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant labelled it as “yet another vanity project”.
„It seems a remarkably old-fashioned, environmentally unfriendly and over-priced approach to international diplomacy,” he said.
“Children are starving. People are being evicted. Mass redundancies are potentially just over the horizon. But yeh buy a posh boat,” Twitter user Olly Armstrong said.
Related: Boris Johnson: New national flagship to promote ‘best of British’ around the world
‘The Tories can pay for it’: Reactions to Johnson’s new flagship