A NOAH’S ARK that has come to rest far from Mount Ararat is at the centre of discussions between the authorities in Britain and the Netherlands.
‘The safety inspectors went in two by two’
Now moored in a Suffolk dock, the 230-foot-long floating biblical museum, owned by the Dutch TV producer Aad Peters, was seized by coastguards soon after its arrival in Ipswich, 18 months ago. Officials declared it unseaworthy, and insisted that it remain in port until “serious concerns” about its condition had been addressed. It has since been accumulating penalties of £500 a day.
A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokesman said: “Noah’s Ark will remain detained until all the deficiencies have been put right and an MCA surveyor is invited back by the owners to check they’ve been corrected.”
The replica ark is said to have arrived without legally required load-line certificates, no tonnage information, and other problems, including overdue services for fire equipment, life jackets, and life rafts. Mr Peters, however, who had planned a stay of three months, said that it had always been categorised as a “non-certified floating object” that was not required to comply with international maritime regulation.
The ark is a four-storey tall wooden shell, half the size of the dimensions of 300 cubits, or 510 foot long, given in the Bible. Built on a steel canal barge, it was constructed 16 years ago by the Creationist carpenter Johan Huibers, after he dreamed about the Flood. He fitted it out with wooden tableaux to bring biblical stories to people who no longer went to church.
Mr Peters, who bought it in 2010, said that it had previously been towed between European countries without the need for a certificate or registration with a flag state. He insists that it is fully insured, has passed numerous inspections, and that problems with fire and life-preserving equipment have been addressed and inspection certificates provided. All financial commitments have been met.
He has asked the British authorities to grant exceptional permission for a single passage to Holland. A coastguard official said: “We do have concerns about this vessel, and we cannot rely on the grace of God that it can be safely towed to Holland.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said that discussions were ongoing with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and its Human Environment Inspectorate. “Safety remains the top priority,” they said.
In a statement, Mr Peters said: “The requirement to obtain full registration and the required certificates 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.”
The MP for Ipswich, Tom Hunt, who has raised the case with the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “The last I heard, we’d hit a bit of a brick wall. It’s a very strange and unusual issue to crop up. We’re working with the Dutch authorities and are trying our best to get it back to Holland, one way or another.”