Hope on horizon for historic steam-tug

by Hans | July 18th, 2009

A powerful but rusting relic of British maritime history is set for more than £1 million of restoration work. The long-neglected steam-tug Cervia, which has been docked at Ramsgate harbour for more than 30 years, should be in seafaring condition within two years, according to trustees of the Ramsgate Maritime Museum. The Cervia is on long-term loan to the museum, which is due to reopen in the summer after the details were finalised this month. The trustees of the Preston-based Steam Museum Trust have been handed a 99-year lease that includes three years’ free rent for the Thanet council-owned clocktower building.

Trust chairman Michael List-Brain said: “The restoration work starts this week and should take two years to finish, costing between £1.2 million and £1.4 million. “The deal to take over the museum has been a long and tortuous process lasting around six months. We have found it very frustrating, but now we can get on with restoring the Cervia and getting thousands more visitors to the museum.” Mr List-Brain said the formidable tug, which has a 1,000hp triple-expansion steam-engine, is the only ship of its kind left in Britain. It is 34.4 metres long and weighs 233 tonnes. It sank near Tilbury docks in Essex after a collision in 1954 with a steam-liner’s engines, killing all five crew. It was refloated and taken to Ramsgate for repair. It returned to work in the 1970s before a deal was struck with the museum in 1985. “There used to be hundreds of steam tugs,” said Mr List-Brain. “The Cervia was built just as World War Two ended and has a long association with Ramsgate. It’s a huge undertaking but will be worth it.” A café and improvements to the gift ship is promised, as well as up to six weekend events at the site. Thanet council has agreed to write off debts owed by the East Kent Maritime Trust, which previously ran the attraction. Mr List-Brain said: “The ultimate aim is to get it back into full working order. She’s a tremendous asset to the town and should prove to be a huge attraction for visitors to Ramsgate – when she’s restored.” The estimated £1 million reno-vation costs will need to be raised by the museum trustees – no grant money has been awarded. A Thanet council spokeswoman said the authority would help the museum’s new tenants with advice on business planning, conservation and promoting the attraction. A Cabinet meeting is expected to approve the deal on August 6. Visit ramsgatemaritimemuseum. org.uk for more details, or call 01843 570622.

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