HMS Belfast was decommissioned almost 50 years ago, but now attracts a quarter of a million paying visitors a year. The former Second World War cruiser berthed near London Bridge is far from unique as a modern warship turned floating tourist attraction.
From HDMS Peder Skram in Copenhagen harbour to Sydney’s HMAS Vampire and USS Intrepid in New York, there are countless examples around the world of 20th century military ships – most without a spectacular history of their own – being turned into popular museums.
The idea of Edinburgh buying the Type 42 destroyer which bears our name and turning it into a floating visitor centre near the Royal Yacht Britannia is imaginative and far-sighted.
We need to add to the attractions on the Waterfront if we are going to entice more people to spend time there. What an addition HMS Edinburgh would be.
The chance to explore a real battleship would fire the imagination of visitors of all ages and teach future generations about our fascinating naval past. The Royal yacht and nearby Trinity House Maritime History Museum would make a natural naval trail around the old docks.
The £700,000-plus cost of buying and converting the ship might at first seem prohibitive. But should it prove to be a popular attraction – and there is every reason to suppose it would – then the price would look like a snip.
The real test would be how much you would end up spending for every paying visitor you attract. Even with a fifth of the visitors that the Royal Yacht draws, around 50,000 a year, the cost per visitor over its lifetime would be mere pennies.
And with most visitors spending cash on entry fees, refreshments and souvenirs, either on the boat or elsewhere in Leith, that would be a sound investment for the city. This is a plan that deserves further serious consideration.