Giant Noah's Ark stuck on Ipswich Waterfront
- Credit: Archant
A floating Noah's Ark museum on Ipswich's Waterfront is stuck after being impounded by the coastguard.
The giant Dutch vessel was meant to leave the town more than a year ago.
But shortly after it arrived in Ipswich with much fanfare in November 2019 it was impounded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at Orwell Quay, opposite Cult Cafe.
Coastguard chiefs have only now confirmed to this newspaper that the popular attraction, which has welcomed well over 15,000 visitors since its arrival, has been detained in the harbour for the majority of its 18-month stay.
Bosses said they will release the vessel once it meets the "appropriate statutory certification requirements". The MCA would not specify what those requirements were.
Owned by Dutch TV producer Aad Peters, the ark has delighted guests from far and wide, with some traveling 500-plus miles from the Scottish Highlands to see it in person.
The museum's directors declined to comment on the current situation.
But in a post shared on the ark's Facebook page in February, Mr Peters wrote: "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.
"This story must go again soon. Feel free to contact us if you have any ideas, we want to walk on water again."
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Coastguard bosses say they are continuing to engage with those in charge of the vessel.
'We won't leave you'
The £2.6m replica of the Biblical boat stunned onlookers in November 2019 when it was towed into the marina for its first British visit.
Shortly after arriving, the 70m long, 9.5m wide, and 13m high attraction, which tells the story of the Bible through quirky sculptures, extended its stay until March 2020.
Bosses announced the news on Brexit Day, January 31, 2020, with a striking banner adorning the side of the vessel which read: "We won't leave you, we like you, we love you, we will stay with you in Ipswich".
However, the giant ark did not leave last March as planned and the first national lockdown forced it to close between mid-March and July.
In the summer, its directors announced yet another extension - this time, until a maximum of March 2021.
Now, still moored at the marina nine days into April, it is not clear when the ark will leave.
It cannot set sail without tug support from the port and because it does not have its own engine, the floating museum has to be towed between destinations.
Bosses at Associated British Ports, which runs the Port of Ipswich, said they are working with all relevant agencies to help resolve the issue and facilitate the ark's departure.
But it will not be allowed to leave Ipswich until the ark's owners reach an agreement with the authorities.
Holywells councillor Liz Harsant said the ark was an interesting addition initially with lots of visitors coming to see it.
But now the mood has changed with many wanting the vessel to move on.
Orwell Quay residents Peter and Amy said: "The ark has been here ever since we moved in, and we understand long before that.
"It's not our favourite part of the landscape so we've been wondering for a while when it might move on - especially as we haven't even had a chance to get on board during the pandemic."
Fire notice issued
We can also reveal that the ark was issued with a fire notice in February 2020 by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.
It followed an inspection by the authority which uncovered a number of concerns.
An "informal notice of deficiencies" was issued to the owners that identified work they needed to complete to comply with fire safety legislation.
A fire service spokesman added that the ark had closed during lockdowns, but while it was open last summer, its owners had been working to "achieve compliance".