Ship ahoy!

AIRCRAFT carrier HMS Ark Royal could be turned into a Royal Docks museum and tourist attraction, it has been revealed.

City Hall confirmed that talks were being held between the London Mayor’s office and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over offering the Royal Navy’s flagship a permanent home in Newham after it is decommissioned next year.

The spokeswoman said that London Mayor Boris Johnson was enthusiastic about the regeneration opportunities that would be created by berthing the Ark Royal in the East End but the final decision would rest with the MoD.

There are a number of precedents of decommissioned warships proving a big hit with the public, including HMS Belfast, which is run by the Imperial War Museum at London Bridge and USS Intrepid, which attracts a million visitors a year to the Hudson River in New York.

At 210 metres (683 feet) long, the Ark Royal has the potential to host events and house shops, restaurants or even a hotel or casino.

The MoD is also considering a number of other options for the future of the Navy’s flagship, however, including scrapping, selling or recycling the vessel.

The warship returned to its Portsmouth base on Friday for the final time having being axed in the defence review cuts announced in October.

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She will be decommissioned in Scotland after a farewell parade in Portsmouth in January.

The Ark Royal celebrated its silver jubilee in July 2010 and is the fifth vessel to bear its distinguished name.

It served in the Balkans and Iraq conflicts.

The 20,000-ton ship is both a mobile airfield and a command and control base and can cruise at more than 30 knots.

It is manned by a 686 crew, working alongside 366 airmen and women, and is capable of carrying a military force of 400 Royal Marines or Army personnel. She can carry up to 28 aircraft anywhere in the world, including Lynx, Apache and Sea King Helicopters, and Harrier jets.

The Ark Royal will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth series of aircraft carrier, which will not come into service until the end of the decade.