Nelson's flagship HMS Victory is set to be handed over to a Hampshire museum in a bid to attract charitable funding and save the Ministry of Defence millions of pounds for its upkeep.
It is understood that the Royal Navy vessel will remain a commissioned warship after custodianship is handed over to the National Museum of the Royal Navy
in Portsmouth, in April.
But its new charity status would mean that the museum would be able to apply for grants towards the upkeep of the 18th century warship.
HMS Victory is located in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and is the flagship of the Second Sea Lord and Commander in Chief Naval Home Command.
It is undergoing a £16 million five-year refurbishment programme.
The work, being carried out by BAE Systems, includes repairs to the middle-gun deck which has required the removal of the masts, booms and rigging.
A MoD spokesman said: ''We are considering options for the future of HMS Victory that will reinforce her status as a Royal Navy flagship and a commissioned warship.
''There are no plans to sell Victory. Under consideration is how her future can be secured by responsible custodianship as befits such a national icon.
''The Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence sees as paramount the preservation of HMS Victory for the nation.
''Whatever is decided in the interests of securing the ship's future, she will remain a commissioned warship under the white ensign and with a Royal Navy ship's company.
''The maintenance of the ship was given a significant boost last October when BAE Systems Surface Ships were awarded a £16m contract to support HMS Victory.
''The contract involves the most extensive restoration since the ship returned from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.''
HMS Victory was launched in 1765 at Chatham Dockyard and was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1778.