Fortunately it didn’t happen to the original because – if the Bible is to be believed – none of us would be around to tell the tale.
A giant replica of Noah’s Ark has been impounded and is racking up fines of £500 a day on Ipswich’s waterfront after the UK authorities said it did not have the correct paperwork.
The 230ft long floating museum, full of sculptures of biblical characters, arrived in November 2019 after being towed across the North Sea from the Netherlands.
The attraction, which has welcomed more than 15,000 visitors, had been due to leave in March 2020 but has been stuck for 18 months after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was not seaworthy.
Now the Department of Transport is in discussions with the MCA and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, and its Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, to find a way for the ship to be released.
A DfT spokesperson said they were “aware of the situation” and in discussion with relevant agencies in the Netherlands and UK.
“Safety remains the top priority’, the spokesperson said.
The owner of the replica Ark, Dutch TV and theatre producer Aad Peters, is desperate for it to be allowed home.
“The Ark needs to move…this Old Testament ship with the Tree of Life and He who brought forgiveness on board needs to be in motion again,” he wrote on Facebook.
Documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Ipswich Star, reveal the MCA has ruled it cannot release the Ark until it has a load line certificate and papers to show it meets anti-fouling laws.
The certificate is issued by the country where a vessel is registered and states how low it can safely sink in the water when fully loaded under different conditions.
Mr Peters tried to get the vessel towed in March by asking authorities to issue a certificate for a one-off voyage. The MCA, however, told his agents that it was not possible to exempt the Ark from international rules as it was not registered in the UK.
As of January 2021 the detention of the vessel had cost its owners £12,132, and it has been incurring £500 daily fines since April 1.
Mr Peters’s agents had argued that the vessel was designated by the Dutch maritime authorities as a “non-certified floating object” which means it did not have to comply with international regulations.
But the coastguard also wants to see evidence that the Ark complies with international rules banning hulls from being treated with anti-fouling paint which contains chemicals harmful to wildlife.
Emails from coastguard bosses, seen by the Ipswich Star, raise “serious concerns” about the condition of the vessel, including the fact it is 61 years old.
“We do have concerns about this vessel and we cannot rely on the grace of God that it can be safely towed to Holland,” the emails read.
It is understood the Dutch Government is lobbying the UK Foreign Office and the Department of Transport on the issue.
A spokesperson for the MCA said: “The vessel, Noah’s Ark, will remain detained until all the deficiencies have been put right and a MCA surveyor is invited to check they’ve been corrected.”
Mr Peters, who is now back in the Netherlands, has described his Ark as “a message of hope” and “an educational and cultural celebration of many of the Bible’s legendary stories”.
His spokesperson said: “The requirement to obtain full registration and the required certificates was and may not be achievable within the required timescales and would incur unreasonable costs and time delays to the vessel.
“Towage plans have now been made for the Ark to return to the Netherlands and the vessel is still awaiting towage approval to depart from the UK.
“Owners have been continuously seeking a means (of release) and (permittance) to be towed on a single voyage from the UK to the Netherlands, with an agreed towage plan.”
Just as well nobody ever asked Noah for an agreed towage plan, or for that matter a load line certificate, after the man himself loaded a male and female of every animal onto his Ark on being warned of the devastating flood to come.