London

Steamcoaster SS Robin arrives at London's Royal Docks

One of the world's last surviving steamcoasters, SS Robin, has returned to east London where it began its life.

The 300-tonne ship will undergo internal restoration to become a floating museum while at the Royal Docks in Newham borough.

The traditional cargo steamer was built at Thames Ironworks in Blackwall, east London, and launched in 1890.

Nishani Kampfner, co-founder of SS Robin Trust, said the mercantile vessel was "one of London's secret treasures".

SS Robin, which is listed on the National Historic Fleet register, is one of the three maritime landmarks in the capital along with Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.

'Precious sculpture'

Ms Kampfner said: "She's one of the capital's most important maritime symbols - and an amazing sight.

"She's been under wraps for the past three years undergoing extensive restoration work, and now this irreplaceable historic ship sits proudly on a new floating pontoon - like a precious sculpture."

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said the mooring of the vessel at the Royal Docks would signal the "huge potential here for investment, growth and greater prosperity".

Image caption SS Robin was in service for 80 years

The 120-year-old vessel was in service for 80 years during which time it visited 140 ports around the British Isles and Europe.

The ship spent most of its working life in Spain, where it was named Maria.

The steamcoaster was brought back to the UK from Spain in the 1970s to be part of its historic fleet.

It was initially brought to St Katherine Docks by the Tower of London, but restoration could not be completed because of a lack of funding.

In 1991 the vessel was moved to West India Dock in east London and mothballed until 2002 when it became the property of the SS Robin Trust.

The mercantile vessel was towed to Lowestoft in Suffolk in 2008 for £1.9m of external repairs.

The ship will be on public display during the 2012 Olympics and could be opened to the public later in the year.

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