Admiral Lord Nelson died during the Battle of Trafalgar
Historic warship HMS Victory could be run by a charity or a public body, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed.
The 249-year-old ship was Lord Nelson's flagship during the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar when the Royal Navy defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet.
The MoD is examining a series of options for its future maintenance.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where the ship is based, said it was "in the Royal Navy's and the dockyard's interests to see her future secured".
HMS Victory, on which Admiral Lord Nelson also died after being shot during the battle, is the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
She was built between 1759 and 1765 and is one of the only 18th Century ships of the line still to be found anywhere in the world.
However, the cost of maintaining her is reportedly about £1.5m a year and more, if major work is needed.
An MoD spokesman said: "This is not a case of the Navy giving away HMS Victory nor are we decommissioning it.
"We are looking at a range of funding options for the continued support and ongoing maintenance of HMS Victory."
Keeping the current status quo, public ownership by another government department or non-departmental public body as well as establishing a new charity for the vessel and employing an existing charity are among the options the MoD is investigating as part of its consultation exercise.
Some 500,000 people a year visit the ship in the dry dock in Portsmouth and it is one of the city's major attractions.
Robert Bruce, managing director at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, said: "It is clearly in both the Royal Navy's and the Historic Dockyard's interests to see her long term future properly secured and we will work with the Royal Navy to ensure that."