Noah’s Ark is LEAVING after UK stay sparked row of 'biblical proportions'

A replica of Noah's Ark arrives at ABP's Port of Ipswich, on 09-November-2019.
Picture: Steph

A replica of Noah's Ark arrives at ABP's Port of Ipswich, on 09-November-2019. Picture: Stephen Waller / ABP Ipswich - Credit: Stephen Waller / ABP Ipswich

A replica of Noah's Ark is leaving Ipswich after more than a year and a half detained under maritime laws, we can exclusively reveal.

The huge 70m long vessel is to set sail for the Netherlands after almost 20 months docked at Orwell Quay.

It is understood that the planned departure is between 4am and 7am on Thursday. 

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman said: “On Thursday, June 24, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency released vessel Arc of Noah from its detention at Ipswich Waterfront.

“The MCA carried out an inspection of the vessel, confirmed that the vessel’s deficiencies had been resolved and corrected by its ownership. The vessel was released from detention at 11am on June 24."

Back in April we revealed how the floating museum - which tells the story of the Bible through quirky sculptures - had actually been impounded by the coastguard days after it arrived for its first British stay in November 2019.

Our follow-up story of how the British Government was being urged to wade into an “extraordinary” international row over the incident went global with the news reported as far away as Australia.

The Ark’s owners were desperate to leave but up until now, the coastguard was adamant it was not safe for it to set sail - so an “impossible stalemate” was reached. 

It led to wrangling between the British and Dutch authorities which culminated in the transport secretary Grant Shapps being asked to intervene.

Coastguard bosses said the Ark was not seaworthy, key paperwork was missing, and it was racking up fines of £500 a day from April 1, according to emails and documents obtained by this newspaper under Freedom of Information laws.

Dutchman Aad Peters has brought his replica of Noah's Ark to Ipswich docks for three months. Picture

Dutchman Aad Peters has brought his replica of Noah's Ark to Ipswich docks for three months. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

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Now it has been confirmed that the Ark, owned by Dutch TV producer Aad Peters, will be returning to the Netherlands after all. The owners have been approached for comment.

A spokesman for Associated British Ports (ABP) said: “ABP is pleased to see that the owners of the vessel known as Noah’s Ark and the MCA have reached an agreement to allow the vessel to return to the Netherlands.

"We wish the Ark and her crew a safe passage home. “

The 70m vessel, a replica of Noah's Ark, is owned by Dutch TV producer Aad Peters. It tells Bible st

The 70m vessel, a replica of Noah's Ark, is owned by Dutch TV producer Aad Peters. It tells Bible stories through wooden sculptures. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

Ipswich locals are now looking forward to being able to see across the Waterfront again after almost two years of the Ark blocking stunning views.

Liz Harsant, Ipswich Borough councillor for the Holywells ward where the Ark is moored, said: "I think it will be a relief to see that space empty again.

“With lockdown finishing hopefully we will be able to do all the things we have talked about over the last 18 months with that space on the river bank."

A replica of Noah's Ark exits the lock at ABP's Port of Ipswich, on 09-November-2019. Picture

A replica of Noah's Ark exits the lock at ABP's Port of Ipswich, on 09-November-2019. Picture: Stephen Waller / ABP Ipswich - Credit: Stephen Waller / ABP Ipswich

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt stepped on board for the first time a fortnight ago, keen to resolve the stalemate we reported on in May.

He said: “I met with the owner a few weeks ago. It did seem that things were moving forward then. There were lots of paperwork issues, but from the emails I saw, it seemed to be heading in the right direction.

“I told them I would try and instigate some ministerial input if required, but it seemed as though that was not necessary in the end. It’s a lovely structure, a lot of people have enjoyed it while it’s been here.

“Saying that, it’s quite a key mooring for the port, and the fact that the Ark had been there so long was becoming a bit of a problem.

Noah's Ark docked in Ipswich's Waterfront Picture: Ott Tuulberg

Noah's Ark docked in Ipswich's Waterfront Picture: Ott Tuulberg - Credit: Ott Tuulberg

“I’m glad they can now be on their way safely back to the Netherlands.”

‘Cannot rely on the grace of God’

In emails shared with this newspaper, coastguard bosses wrote that they had “serious concerns” over the Ark’s condition, including its age (61 years old), and lack of information about its weight and stability.

Noah's Ark cannot leave Ipswich Waterfront as it has been detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Ag

Noah's Ark cannot leave Ipswich Waterfront as it has been detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Picture: ADAM HOWLETT - Credit: Archant

MCA chiefs had warned: "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 owners told this newspaper at the time that the Ark was fully insured and had passed numerous inspections. It had previously been towed between European countries without the need for a certificate or registration with a flag state, they said.

Concerns over fire and life-preserving equipment had been addressed with inspection certificates provided, they added, and all financial commitments had been met.

They added: “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.”

Telling Biblical stories onboard a replica of Noah's Ark, Dutchman Aad Peters has brought his 70m ve

Telling Biblical stories onboard a replica of Noah's Ark, Dutchman Aad Peters has brought his 70m vessel to Ipswich for three months Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY - Credit: Archant

Dutch authorities had described the vessel as a “floating object” that could undertake a single international voyage in “exceptional circumstances”.

- Read more stories from Archant's Investigations Unit on our Facebook page

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