Four Royal Navy frigates in Portsmouth Harbour for sale

image captionBidders will be able to inspect the ships during February and March

Four decommissioned Royal Navy ships have been put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence.

The Type 22 frigates HMS Cumberland, HMS Campbeltown, HMS Chatham and HMS Cornwall are currently moored in Portsmouth Harbour.

The navy is open to offers for the former Devonport-based ships, including being scrapped and recycled, reused or sunk to become artificial reefs.

Bids must be in by 23 January with viewings in February and March.

The government's Disposal Services Authority, which is handling the sale, wants to award at least one of the frigates to a UK ship recycler to determine the capacity of the UK's industry in the field.

Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, said he believed it would be unlikely the ships, which were decommissioned in 2011, could be saved from the scrap yard.

'Rusting away'

He added: "I've seen since my childhood in Portsmouth that this has been the traditional last place for ships waiting to go.

"It's sad to see these beautiful ships literally rusting away.

"I think the navy would be super optimistic to believe they could bring them into commission again.

"I think the reef idea could work, the scrap value of these ships is not enormous, it might be someone is interested in putting them down.

"[But] the navy hasn't got a choice really, they will be going for scrap."

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said: "The MoD considers all options when disposing of military equipment to ensure the best financial return for the taxpayer.

"We have received a number of expressions of interest... but the competition is at an early stage and it would not be appropriate to comment further."

Originally designed as a specialist anti-submarine ship, the Type 22 frigates evolved into a powerful surface combatant with substantial anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons systems.

They were also known for having excellent command and control, and communication facilities, making them ideal flagships on deployments, with a complement of about 280 crew.

Last year, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was sold as scrap for £3m.

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