HMS Prince of Wales, which weighs 65,000 tonnes and cost more than £3bn, arrived in the Mersey at lunchtime on Friday for a week-long visit. Tony McDonough reports
Hundreds of people defied freezing wind and rain to flock to Liverpool’s waterfront to see the arrival of HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.
At 65,000 tonnes and 280 metres wide, the vessel is one of the most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK, along with her sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth. Sections of both vessels were built at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead.
Assisted by River Mersey tug vessels, HMS Prince of Wales arrived in the River Mersey at lunchtime on Friday and performed a turn on the choppy water before edging across to berth at Liverpool Cruise Terminal, off Princes Parade.
In a quayside interview with LBN, Commodore Phil Waterhouse, Naval Regional Commander for Northern England, said the visit was a recognition of Liverpool as “a great maritime city and a great naval city”.
He added: “It is a great moment for the aircraft carrier to be in a non-naval port. This is really significant because we are opening up HMS Prince of Wales to the public so they can see what return on investment they get and how we conduct our defence of the realm.
“It is really important from a Liverpool perspective because of the affiliation between the ship and the city. Why we do that is because we are letting the UK populace know what we do and why we do it. Hopefully the public will understand what the Royal Navy does and we’ll be valued for that.”
HMS Prince of Wales will be berthed in Liverpool for a week, departing the Mersey on Friday, March 6. For two days during her visit members of the public were able to step on board and take a tour of the vessel, which cost more than £3bn to construct.
Commodore Waterhouse said: “The guys and girls on board will get some time off as they will want to explore Liverpool. But we are also hosting events on the ship and we are also going out into the city, into schools, into colleges to tell people what we do.
“This isn’t just a celebration of what the Royal Navy can deliver, it is also a celebration of British engineering with the ship being built around the country. What you see now is an example of that excellent engineering.”
With an expected service life of up to 50 years, the floating cities of the Queen Elizabeth-class are highly versatile and able to meet the widest range of tasks around the world. The punch is provided by F-35 Lightning fighter jets as she deploys around the world in a naval task group.
Royal Navy is transforming into a force centred around carrier strike – supporting the ships as they conduct carrier strike missions, enforce no-fly zones, deploy Royal Marine Commandos, deliver humanitarian aid, and build international partnerships with Britain’s allies.