As we await the unveiling of the final design for the new £250m national flagship ahead of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, National Maritime asks would a new, smaller ‘UK flagship’, funded by the private sector, operating in central London be a far more effective way to showcase the very best in British shipbuilding craftsmanship & zero emissions tech to the World?
A vessel built & furnished from the four corners of the UK showcasing the very best in cutting-edge British design, engineering & green technology.
Over many centuries (until the late 1990s), as a nation proud of our mastery of shipbuilding, a London cruise on the ‘Royal Barge’ or state boat had always been incorporated into the State Visit itinerary for Royalty & the Government. The river Thames was a safe & convenient way to travel between the historic sites of power, Hampton Court, Chelsea, Westminster, Tower Hill & Greenwich.
This tradition is still reflected during a 21st century State Visit cruise, the monarch would be accompanied by her Royal Bargemaster & some of her 24 Royal Watermen (one of the most ancient royal appointments) who still wear the traditional watermen’s costume, with a scarlet skirted coat, bearing the royal cipher on a front panel creating a truly dramatic imagery from the riverbank.
State visit cruises in recent times have continued due to excellent security, no travel disruption, & iconic views of landmarks such as Tower Bridge & the Houses of Parliament. The last vessel to carry out this duty for over 40 years was the ‘Royal Nore’ owned by the Port of London Authority & operated by Woods’ Silver Fleet.
In 2012, the traditionally built Royal Row barge Gloriana, was financed by Lord Sterling & financial donations from Lloyd’s Register & charitable foundations. The Gloriana has led many key State celebrations since however this royal barge, again, offers low capacity for guest entertainment & showcases the excellent traditional wooden boatbuilding skills (Mark Edwards MBE, Master Boatbuilder, Richmond) rather than the capabilities of today’s British shipyards.
A 50-60m inland waterway vessel, featuring contemporary exterior & interior design by a designer of international standing, would be pictured throughout the World with international dignitaries. A vessel built by UK ship builders & maritime industries showcasing the latest cutting-edge British design, engineering & green technology while boosting trade & driving investment.
A maritime hospitality company could invest in the vessel & as worked well in the past, charter for private events when not required for royal & diplomatic work thus making the vessel no burden on public funding.
And to those that often portray London as the villain, it is the very best of cities to help promote British businesses to the world.