Boris Johnson’s plans for new Royal Yacht ‘look like 1950s fishing trawler’

Boris Johnson’s plans for a new national flagship have been criticised for looking like a "1950s fishing trawler" by the designer of the liner Queen Mary 2.

Stephen Payne, who has spent two years drawing up alternative plans for a new Royal Yacht, said the Prime Minister’s £200 million project, unveiled at the end of May, would be too small, cost £5 million a year to run and be difficult for the Royal Navy to crew.

Mr Johnson said the new national flagship – which will be seen as a replacement for Royal Yacht Britannia – will give British businesses a new global platform and enter service in four years.

It marked a major victory for a Telegraph campaign for a replacement for Britannia since Britons voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

The original Britannia is a popular tourist attraction in Edinburgh after it was controversially decommissioned by Tony Blair’s Labour Government in 1997.

The original Britannia was decommissioned by Tony Blair's Government in 1997

Credit: Tim Graham/Via Getty Images

Mr Payne said his design for a new Britannia would pay for itself by being a touring exhibition centre for UK businesses, enhanced by the cachet of its royal connections.

He said of the Number 10 plans: "The superstructure front, akin to a 1950s Hull trawler, is great for a fair-weather ship but not such a good idea for a global voyager crossing the Atlantic, Pacific, or even rounding the tip of Africa."

Asked whether it would be a suitable flagship to represent the United Kingdom, he replied: "I think it would be a very poor one. It would be all right for the Isle of Sark or something. I just think we could do something more ambitious."

Mr Payne pointed out that, according to Number 10’s design, the proposed ship could not be a Royal Yacht because it would need another mast to fly the three necessary flags – the Admiralty pennant, Royal Standard and Union Flag – as Britannia did.

"Britannia’s importance stemmed from her royal status," he said. "She had four suites with adjacent staff cabins and luggage storage, as well as two private lounges.

"The latest generation of royals travel with as much luggage as their forebears – the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly takes 20 cases. How would, for instance, President Biden or Chancellor Merkel be accommodated on board? They would require a suite of rooms as well as the royals."

He added: "As a royal yacht, Britannia had an unambiguous cachet. Apart from her elegantly designed spaces, she had the Band of the Royal Marines and a hand-picked crew of more than 270. This package was what gave Britannia her standing, her prestige and the distinction which lured business on board.

"They say they’ll use a Royal Navy crew. Isn’t there a chronic manpower shortage within the service? Will the Navy look at this new vessel not with adoring eyes but with despair as it struggles to keep frontline ships at sea?

"As for financing this ship, there’s £200 million to find and I’d be surprised if the running costs weren’t £5 million a year. I don’t believe there’s the appetite from even the most ardent royal fans to support such costs."

Mr Payne’s plans envisage a royal yacht that would promote British trade, tourism, youth and culture around the world. His Britannia 2 would be a floating "Festival of Britain" that could pay for itself by hiring out its conference hall and exhibition spaces during port visits.

At 475ft, it would be 62ft longer than the original HMY Britannia and have a two-deck, 250-seat auditorium and a self-contained royal deck, as well as an on-board pub, restaurant, TV studio, museum and souvenir shop.

Mr Payne, who designed QM2 for Cunard in 1998, wants the hybrid-powered royal yacht built at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. He said he sent an outline of his proposals to Number 10 – but they were lost.

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