PART of Hampshire's maritime heritage could end up in the scrapyard unless the "iconic" D-Day veteran is found a new home within months.

Owners of the former tug tender Calshot have revealed that the historic ship cannot remain in the water without repairs costing at least £3 million.

They say the 87-year-old vessel is slowly deteriorating and needs to be moved ashore to preserve her for the nation.

But their plea has been rejected by Associated British Ports (ABP), which has also told them the Southampton-built ship must leave her present home - Berth 50 - by June next year.

Now members of the Tug Tender Calshot Trust are warning the vessel is likely to be scrapped unless a suitable new home is identified.

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The threat to the ship's survival has horrified historians including Alan Jones, director of the Solent Sky Museum.

He said: "Southampton has the greatest maritime heritage of any city in the world and the Calshot is an icon of that period.

"We must keep her. If she has to be scrapped it would be more than a tragedy, it would be criminal."

During her hey-day in the 1930s the Calshot towed all the great liners into Southampton.

Following the start of the Second World War she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and sent to the Scapa Flow naval base but returned to the city during the build-up to the D-Day landings.

She took sections of the famous Mulberry Harbour to France and also served as a "non-assault HQ ship" during the Canadian and British landings on Juno Beach.

In 1985 Southampton City Council bought the vessel with the intention of making her the centrepiece of a maritime museum in Ocean Village, but the scheme never got off the ground.

The trust was formed in 1996 and acquired the Calshot from the council in 2005.

Chairman Terry Yarwood said: "We've had her for more than 20 years and in that time we have achieved a heck of a lot but she's an old lady.

"The vessel has been in the water for a very long time and her hull is slowly deteriorating.

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"If we leave her in the water she'll need work costing millions to ensure she complies with Maritime and Coastguard Agency regulations but we haven't got the resources.

"Although we contacted the Heritage Lottery Fund on two occasions money wasn't forthcoming.

"We recently approached ABP and asked the Port Director, Alastair Welch, if the Calshot could be moved to dry land but he said no way."

In a letter to the trust Mr Welch says the Calshot must leave her birth by June next year, adding that a new home in the docks is "not an option".

He told the Daily Echo: “After many years of trying the trustees have not succeeded in raising the significant funds they need to restore the ship to a seaworthy condition.

"They believe the only future for the vessel will be to remove it from the water and base her on land somewhere as a museum/tourist attraction.

Daily Echo: Alistair Welch, of Southend airport

(Alastair Welch - ABP boss)

“We have agreed to allow the ship to remain where she is whilst the trustees develop their plans for this over the coming months.

"While we are not in a position to host such an attraction within the port complex, we are supporting the trustees as they explore other options."