A Noah’s Ark replica that has been detained in Ipswich, England, for 18 months has been accruing daily fines of £500, or $700, since April 1. The replica is in something of a catch-22 as British authorities are preventing it from setting sail on the grounds that it is unseaworthy, but have been levying fines because it remains in port.
“We do have concerns about this vessel and we cannot rely on the grace of God that it can be safely towed to Holland,” said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), according to emails obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT). “Noah’s Ark will remain detained until all the deficiencies have been put right and an MCA surveyor is invited back by the owners to check they’ve been corrected.”
Noah’s Ark Replica Stuck in Limbo
The Noah’s Ark replica is owned by Aad Peters, a Dutch television and theater producer who purchased it in 2010 for three million dollars from Dutch carpenter Johan Huibers. The ark is one of two replicas that Huibers built to “educate people and strengthen their belief in God.” Peters’ ark is a 21,528 square foot museum and is estimated to be about half the size of the ark described in the Bible.
Peters’ ark has no engine and cannot travel on its own, but has to be towed. It arrived in Ipswich in October 2019, and British authorities impounded it the following month. According to the New York Times, visitors still toured the museum until March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the “serious concerns” that the MCA is reported to have are that the vessel has neither a load line certificate nor an antifouling certificate. The ark’s owners have been charged over £12,000, or $17,000, since January 2021 before they began accruing daily fines at the beginning of April. The owners say port authorities have told them the fines will increase “substantially” should the ark remain.
International maritime laws do not apply to the vessel, according to the ark’s owners, because it is registered as a “non-certified floating object.” They claim to have met all certifications, insurance requirements, and inspections. The owners also say they are ready to be towed back to the Netherlands once the British authorities allowed them to go. In a statement to the EADT, they said:
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. Towage plans have now been made for the Ark to return to the Netherlands and the vessel is still awaiting towage approval to depart from the UK. Owners have been continuously seeking a means (of release) and (permittance) to be towed on a single voyage from the UK to the Netherlands, with an agreed towage plan.
British and Dutch authorities are struggling to come to a resolution about the issue. The Ipswich Star reports that a spokesperson with the U.K.’s Department for Transport said, “We are aware of the situation and are in discussions with relevant agencies in the U.K. and the Netherlands. Safety remains the top priority.” Ipswich’s MP, Tom Hunt, said, “The last I heard, we’d hit a bit of a brick wall. It’s a very strange and unusual issue to crop up. We’re working with the Dutch authorities and are trying our best to get it back to Holland one way or another.”