A technology entrepreneur is looking to raise around £15m to save the Falklands flagship on which he once served from the possibility of scrap, and is looking to celebrities and the public to help him out on his mission.
Prior to setting up NCI Technologies, its boss Andy Trish served in the Navy, and sailed to the Falkland Islands on flagship HMS Hermes - an aircraft carrier which is now the oldest of its kind in the world.
The vessel served from 1959 to 1984, after which it was sold to India and renamed INS Viraat. It remained in use until last month when a decommissioning ceremony was held in Mumbai, attended by veterans, including Trish.
On visiting the ship, Trish discovered it faced a bleak future: the possibility of being sunk or scrapped if an Indian firm did not succeed in turning it into a local museum, something he was told is unlikely.
Upset by the historic vessel's grim prospects, Trish resolved to do something about it, and now plans to raise millions of pounds to rescue it.
Trish said the ship itself would cost £5m, and it would cost the same again to get it home - which would require another ship to tow it back to the UK as its own boilers would not be up to the long trip. On top of this, more cash would be needed to redevelop it, meaning he is seeking to raise a minimum of £15m.
He hopes to dock the ship in Portsmouth - where it has strong historical links - and said that its boiler issues would mean it would need to run off dockyard power.
He stressed that his business NCI Technologies would not be getting involved in his plans, and that he is looking to buy it back as a private individual on behalf of himself and other investors including the general public and celebrities, such as Richard Branson and Rod Stewart, whom he is planning to target.
His long-term ambition would be to redevelop the boat.
"I am going to get a group of people together; people like Richard Branson and Rod Stewart," he said. "I am hoping people like that will be a part of it. I want to buy it privately. I know the government aren't going to want to invest. To be fair, they have serving ships they need to put the money into. They don't want an old ship they won't use.
"It's the world's oldest aircraft carrier and she was the flagship to the Falkland Islands. She has a lot of heritage behind her. The government have refused to buy many old ships in the past as they have no use for them. As a business model, it's really expensive to run - not to mention she can't run on her own steam with no boilers. She would have to be docked and run off dockyard power.
"She wouldn't be sailing again but she would be partly a museum ship, partly offices - there are loads of things she could be. She could be a hotel venue, a concert venue, all sorts."
He says he has around four months to raise the cash, but stressed that if the long-shot Indian bid to develop it there goes ahead, he will stand down, although he thinks he is in with a good shot of carrying out his ambitious plans.
"Honestly, I think it can happen," he said. "I wouldn't be wasting my time if I didn't think I could do it."
Those interested in donating to the cause can email Andy Trish [email protected]
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