Britain’s new royal yacht could cost the taxpayer an initial £50m more than previously indicated at a total cost of £250m, the defence secretary said at an industry event to launch the project.
The replacement for the long-scrapped Britannia, a brainchild of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, would be commissioned at “between £200m and £250m at a firm price”, Ben Wallace told a specially convened conference at Greenwich.
That represents an increase from the £200m upfront cost previously indicated when Downing Street first announced it would go ahead with the project to create a national flagship in late May.
Both Johnson, in a pre-recorded message, and Wallace said the vessel would pay for its costs “many, many times over” because it will act as a “floating embassy to promote the UK diplomatic and trading interests in coastal capitals around the world”.
The timetable, Wallace confirmed, would be to invite bids in October and award a contract in December. The ship would be built “in a British shipyard” Wallace said and would be “in the water” by 2024 or 2025.
An argument has raged in government about who would pay for the upfront costs of the ship, with the MoD agreeing to pay for the procurement costs for a vessel whose direct military use was unclear.
Britannia, which was popular with the Queen and the late Prince Philip, was decommissioned in 1997 after 44 years in service and has become a tourist attraction in Edinburgh.
The name of the new yacht has not been confirmed but there has been speculation it will be named after the Duke of Edinburgh.
Last month, the Conservative peer and former chancellor Ken Clarke called the project “silly populist nonsense” and a rear admiral described the plans as resembling an “oligarch’s yacht”.