City of Adelaide clipper handed to Australian owners
The world's oldest surviving clipper ship has been handed over to new owners ahead of its planned move from Scotland to Australia.
The City of Adelaide has been at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine since it was salvaged in 1992.
Some campaigners wanted it returned to Sunderland, where it was built in 1864, but lost out to a rival Australian bid.
The vessel will be moved in a 100-tonne steel cradle to Adelaide, where it is due to arrive in Spring 2014.
A ceremony to mark the ship's formal handover took place on Friday morning at the maritime museum's Linthouse building.
The new owners, Clipper Ship City of Adelaide, have been working to prepare what remains of the vessel for its journey to Australia.
They plan to start the voyage within days, although the exact time will depend on weather conditions.
The ship will then be moved aboard a barge and travel to Greenwich where it will be berthed close to the Cutty Sark.
It will later be lifted into the hold of a huge cargo ship for the journey to Australia.
The City of Adelaide was built on the River Wear in 1864 to carry people emigrating to southern Australia.
In 1893 it became a hospital ship, but in 1924 was converted into a training ship at Irvine, and renamed HMS Carrick.
In 1991 the ship sank at the Princes Dock, Glasgow, and lay on the bottom of the River Clyde for a year before being raised and taken to Irvine.
For years it lay rotting on a slipway at the Scottish Maritime Museum, with the cost of repairs put in excess of £10m.
Experts said the restoration required was so extensive, it would be like building a new ship - and suggested breaking it up.
But the proposal provoked a fierce campaign to save it and resulted in two rival groups - the Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Fund (Scarf) and Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd - vying to take control of the vessel.
In 2010 the Australian group beat Scarf in a competition to turn the Grade A listed vessel into a tourist attraction.
The Scottish Maritime Museum and Historic Scotland supported the vessel's export to Australia, dismissing plans by Scarf to move the ship to Wearside as "not technically feasible or properly costed".
Alan Walton, from Scarf, told BBC Newcastle that the Adelaide would be a "shell" by the time it got to Australia because of the work that would need to be done to comply with decontamination regulations.
He said: "When it gets to Australia it's going to be an ugly shell and they have got no plans that they have made anybody aware of to do anything to restore it after that point."
He called for a rethink of the decision, adding: "Keep it in Sunderland. Sunderland can benefit from the hundreds of jobs, from the hundreds of thousands of pounds of income that this will generate as a tourist attraction."