NEWPORT'S ancient ship will be too big for the Riverfront theatre display area, claim experts.

The theatre basement's surface area is 280 metres square and four metres deep.

But internationally renowned marine archaeologist Owain Roberts, who has worked with the Newport ship recovery and restoration team from the start, estimated the completed ship could be 30 metres long by 10 metres wide (300 sq metres), 20 sq metres more than the basement area.

He believes the theatre basement will not do the ship justice even if it does fit.

"It would be like looking at a mosaic from two inches away," he said.

The ship's exact size isn't yet known because restoration isn't complete and because much of the ship was sunken when discovered in 2002 in mudbanks. Some expect its size to be comparable to the Mary Rose, which is 39 metres long at waterline and 12 metres across.

Mr Roberts believes a dedicated maritime centre should house the ship, along with other local discoveries, like the Barland Farm Romano-Celtic boat discovered in Magor.

Maritime archaeologist Professor Sean McGrail agreed with Mr Roberts.

He said: "You'd need a space at least double and possibly three times the ship's length and breadth, not only for people to see it but so it can be constructed."

Friends of the Newport Ship (FoNS) are also critical of the plans to house the ship in the arts centre.

Charles Ferris, 54, a patron of FoNS, said: "The arts centre area would never give people the chance to walk round and see it from different angles.

"My biggest fear is because of the size constraints, the council will decide to only display part of the ship."

He suggests the old Maindee Baths could be used to house the ship, or wants a new maritime centre for South Wales.

Newport council says it is not considering alternative plans to house it, sparking fears the whole of the medieval ship may not be displayed.

The restoration of the ship was expected to take 15 years from 2002. But that timescale could double if a new place to house the reconstruction needs to be found, say FoNS.