Floating Jail: Prison Ship HMP Weare

The problem of criminals and petty offenders plagues every country in the world. To tackle this problem, every country devises its own methodology to keep the offenders behind bars. One method is to use ships as prisons to confine offenders.

There are many countries in the world that incorporate this novel methodology – Great Britain one amongst these with its one-and-only prison ship, HMP Weare.

HMP Weare

Originally a Swedish construction, the civilian ship Weare was acquired by its British owners in the early 1980s and put into active wartime operational duty during the Falklands crisis. Later on, she was sold to the United States and began her second maritime stint as a prison hulk.


After successfully completing many years as a prison ship in the United States, the vessel was re-sold to Great Britain in the year 1997 to resume her operations as a ship prison in England. The vessel’s role as one of the prison on ships in England was to house offenders for a limited time-frame, so that the over-crowdedness in prisons could be temporarily alleviated.

From 1997 to 2005, for almost a decade, the Weare served as one of the hulk ships in Portland in the South-western county of Dorset, providing prison feasibilities to around 400 offenders. Another noteworthy aspect about the prison vessel was that, while under operation, it was instrumental in providing employment opportunities in Portland.

Cessation of Official Duties

In the year 2005, after several protestations were raised against the utilisation of the ship prison, the Weare was officially and respectfully revoked from its duties. The major areas of focus for ceasing the ship’s utilisation were:

  • Lack of undue maintenance costs and
  • Lack of recreational opportunities and ample living space for the inmates.

As a prison vessel, the HMP Weare was catering to Level C offenders. In Great Britain, offenders are categorised into four distinct levels where the levels A and B are prisons for offenders and criminals who have committed or are liable to commit very heinous, serious and repetitive crimes. C and D are for petty or one-time offenders who are most likely to reform after a minor sentencing.

Present Scenario

While the vessel’s official duties were revoked, it was under consideration to purposefully submerge the vessel and use it as a diving spot. But because of availability of appropriate sinking area, this plan did not materialise. Subsequently, the Weare was purchased by an African oil conglomerate to function as an accommodation vessel for its offshore workmen in the year 2006.


In the past couple of years, there have emerged various suggestions that prison on ships be re-introduced to stem the lack of prison houses in Great Britain. The Conservatory Party, one of the two leading political parties in the country, seems to be quite enthusiastic about ensuring a pathway for the return of the prison hulks. But whether such a return actually materializes or suggestions continue to remain as mere suggestions, remains to be seen.


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