A REPLICA of a 15th century boat unearthed in Newport could be set to sail on the Usk, according to the ship’s restoration group.

During the construction of the Riverfront Arts Centre in 2002, a fully preserved medieval merchant vessel was found in the city centre.

The Friends of the Newport Ship (FONS) have held discussions with a Basque heritage group - Albaola - over the possibility of creating a working replica to be ready to return to the water within 10 years.

“For a number of years, we have been in contact with Albaola, a heritage group from the Basque Country in Spain,” said Phil Cox, FONS’ chairman.

“They are building a replica of the San Juan, a boat which is also known as the Red Bay wreck.

“Once they have finished with that, they are looking to start a new one and ours is of interest to them.

“It has no engine but they plan to sail the San Juan on the Atlantic Ocean.”

Last year, the FONS charity received a Basque flag from the maritime group, and Mr Cox believes the recreation of the Newport ship could mirror what Albaola has achieved in attracting around 38,000 visitors to see their ancient vessels per year.

“Albaola has received funding from the Basque and Spanish governments, and it has helped to bring in employment and visitors to the area,” he said.

“So hopefully in around six years’ time, work could start on a project to create replica of the 15th century ship found in Newport.”

Mr Cox added that no work will be able to take place within four years on the Newport ship as Albaola has to finish the San Juan restoration project first.

However, the chairman said the prospect of having a working replica of the 15th century merchant vessel returning to the Usk would be a “wonderful sight”.

“It would take around a decade to complete but we think it would be a wonderful sight to see the ship floating on the Usk once again.,” said Mr Cox.

The link between the Albaola and FONS was forged after it was established that wood used to make the medieval ship came from the Spanish region.

The boat has been taken to York as part of the preservation treatment, and Mr Cox added that structure will never be able to return to the water.

“The original ship will never sail again as it needs to stay in a climate controlled environment but a replica of what might have been would be great,” he said.

Despite a large proportion of the original boat no longer residing in Newport, FONS is still refurbishing timbers with the aiming of holding a museum display in the city.

“We have four pieces of the 10 original timbers bolted together and put against the cross frames,” said Mr Cox.

“It will be a real test of the fastenings and our outstanding of what was used back then.”

Visit newportship.org.