Soviet sub flying the Ukrainian flag could become a Southend Pier attraction

A former Soviet submarine could be brought to Southend and moored close to the pier as a permanent tourist attraction on the seafront.

Two decades ago plans were put forward to bring the U-475 Black Widow submarine to the city but the proposal fell through as the council struggled to find a permanent location.

The cold-war period submarine, dating back to the ‘60s, is used as a museum and visitors can tour inside the vessel while it is moored presently at Strood, on the River Medway.

The sub also featured in 2014 film thriller “Black Sea” starring Jude Law.

Stephen Aylen, non-aligned councillor for Belfairs Ward believes the submarine would be a “wonderful tourist attraction” similar to Spanish warship the El Galeon which visited Southend Pier last year. He has called on the council to re-open talks with the sub’s private owners and believes the Prince of Wales jetty, behind Adventure Island, is the perfect spot.

He said: “There was an intention of bringing the Black Widow submarine from the Medway to Southend Pier in 2004. The issue then was it could not be moored to the pier all the time. It was agreed that this would be a fantastic attraction and would be moored at the Prince of Wales jetty behind Adventure Island. The council held talks with the submarine owners that were positive and it was announced in the press the submarine was coming to Southend.

“The speed boat company that had the lease on the prince of Wales jetty refused to cooperate and this stopped the submarine coming.”

Cllr Aylen revealed the location is now up for grabs after the lease expired on the jetty. He added: “The intention is for the submarine to be a permanent fixture.

“It’s an attraction that would bring people to Southend.

“The council wouldn’t be earning anything for the lease of the jetty, but they aren’t earning anything from it now anyway. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The Black Widow was built at Sudomekh shipyard in Leningrad and commissioned in 1967. It served with the Soviet Baltic Fleet before being used as a training vessel. It was decommissioned in 1993 and sold.

El Galeon

Thousands of residents flocked to Southend Pier to see a replica of a 17th century Spanish warship last year and councillors across the political spectrum have now backed calls for a submarine to be moored on the seafront.

The 200ft tall El Galeon was moored next to Southend Pier for two weeks last summer and proved a huge hit. Residents climbed aboard to explore the ship as it took up temporary residency at the head of the pier.

The success sparked calls for a warship to be permanently placed at the pier, including from Ron Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe Ward, who announced his ambition to see a warship similar to HMS Belfast in London to be moored next to Southend Pier when he was deputy leader in 2020.

Now, councillors in Southend have backed calls to try and attract Russian submarine Black Widow to become a permanent attraction at the Prince of Wales jetty behind Adventure Island.

Tony Cox, leader of the council, has agreed to look into the potential.

He said: “We will look at it, absolutely. We’ll look into the feasibility of it. It does actually look good. Even if it could be moored either permanently or displayed for visitors we would never turn down any of those suggestions.

“We’ve had a rich and proud history of mooring ships and vessels on the pier for people to come and visit and if we can make it happen we’ll see what we can do.”

Cllr Woodley has suggested in the past a warship could be moored off the pier as a tourist attraction.

He said: “I would support it. I was thinking about a destroyer or something like that but a submarine would be good, as long as we can get access and people can go comfortably inside it without having to climb down too many obstacles.

“We do need to make sure there are attractions to the pier and people would come to the area and take that benefit. It gives people an opportunity of having an experience that the wouldn’t have got otherwise.”

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal Ward, added: “We saw last summer with El Galeon what a success and how popular that was. I’m a big supporter of having more temporary attraction at the end of the pier and something like that would be perfect.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter