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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 15:58 GMT
Titanic opportunity 'is wasted'
pictures courtesy of Belfast Industrial Heritage
The Nomadic took passengers out to the Titanic
Efforts to bring a ship described as the last "floating" link to the Titanic back to Belfast have been described as "shambolic" by the city's lord mayor.

Councillor Tom Ekin said that purchasing the SS Nomadic was an "enormous opportunity" for Belfast.

The ship, built at Harland and Wolff the year before Titanic, was used as a tender to take first-class passengers to and from the great liner.

A plan to auction the ship in France was postponed on Monday.

Tourist quarter

The 221st ship ferried passengers to the White Star liner Olympic, and in April 1912, it did the same job for Titanic.

Nomadic saw service in both world wars and was later used as a restaurant on the Seine in Paris.

More recently she has been languishing semi-derelict in the port of Le Havre.

Campaigners, including Belfast Industrial Heritage, have staged an 18-month effort to bring Nomadic back to the city where she was made.

It is hoped that the ship will become the centrepiece of a new tourist quarter dedicated to the world's most famous ship.

Other attractions include the slipway where Titanic was built, the drawing offices where the blueprints for the ship were drawn and the Thompson Dock and pump house where she was fitted out.

Titanic entered into legend in 1912 when more than 1,500 people died during its maiden voyage from the UK to America.

The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage to New York
The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage to New York

A feasibility study by Belfast City Council estimated the cost of buying the ship and bringing it back to the city would be around 750,000.

It would then need about 7m to restore the ship to its former glory.

The city council has said it cannot afford the project and last week met Culture Minister Angela Smith in the hope that she would pump government money into the project.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure said it could not take the lead in the project.

It suggested that Belfast City Council consider a "concessionary loan" from the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund.

'Inanimate objects'

Lord Mayor Ekin, an Alliance party councillor, said the situation was a shambles.

"You could not have devised a better way of doing so little with a wonderful opportunity."

He said the Titanic is a selling tool "unique" to Belfast yet there are exhibitions all over the world but nothing in the city it was built.

"The SS Nomadic is the one floating link with Titanic that exists. Isn't a museum much better to have some tangible thing rather than a load of inanimate objects?," he said.

"We have been fiddling about with this thing for years. We have done nothing.

"If we let this go it is undermining potentially one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world."

He said the project needs a "champion" to bring together all the different bodies involved.

The Thompson Dock pump house is another Titanic legacy
The Thompson Dock pump house is another Titanic legacy

"Politicians should be taking the lead on this. I see this as a squandering of an opportunity to market the city better," he said.

"I have spent the past five months as Lord Mayor promoting the city of Belfast wherever I go and when people ask 'what can I see of the Titanic', I have to say 'nothing, I'm afraid'."

Kathleen Neill from Belfast Industrial Heritage said it had launched its own fundraising efforts but was well short of having enough to purchase the ship.

She said: "Nomadic is the last White Star line vessel still in service.

"She is the last true maritime link with the Titanic. She was built in the glory days of Belfast shipbuilding and she was built by the same men who built Titanic.

"She is the most wonderful example of our Edwardian shipbuilding expertise and she will not only be a tremendous tourist attraction but she will also be an inspiration to the young people of today."


SEE ALSO:
Moves to bail out pump house
12 Nov 04 |  Northern Ireland
Belfast marks Titanic anniversary
15 Apr 04 |  Northern Ireland
City to celebrate Titantic story
25 Feb 04 |  Northern Ireland


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