http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=448615&in_page_id=1770&in_a_source= Three Royal Navy warships which could have averted the seizure of 15 British sailors by Iran are languishing in a dockyard waiting to be sold or scrapped. The mothballed minehunters - used as patrol boats around the coast of Northern Ireland until three years ago - would have been ideal to sail in the shallow waters of the Shatt al-Arab waterway where the 15 were taken hostage. But, instead, the three ships - HMS Dulverton, Brecon and Cottesmore, which cost Â£35million each when they were built in the Eighties - are now likely to be sold to a foreign navy or commercial buyers for as little as Â£200,000 each. These mothballed warships could have saved the British sailors captured by Iran According to naval experts, a 625-ton minehunter would have been more manoeuvrable and able to stay much closer to the inflatable boats in which the sailors were captured than the 4,200-ton Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall. Because of its size and the larger draught required, the Cornwall was forced to stay in deeper water ten miles way when its personnel were seized at gunpoint by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. As its Lynx helicopter was flown back to the ship to refuel at the time of the ambush, there was no 'top cover' protection and the Iranians seized the opportunity to arrest the British sailors. The minehunters, which are mothballed at Portsmouth dockyard, were potent weapons in the war against terror in Ulster, with sophisticated radar and communications equipment and armed with one 30mm and two 20mm guns - more than enough to have dissuaded the Iranians guards to stay away. But they were axed as part of Labour's 2004 defence cuts and are among 21 of the Royal Navy's 44 ships now in mothballs, reducing it to its smallest for centuries, as a result of Chancellor Gordon Brown's slashing of the defence budget by Â£1billion by April next year. Lieutenant Commander Rob Hoole, who commanded HMS Berkeley - a sister ship of the three minehunters - before it was sold to the Greek Navy six years ago, said: "It would be madness to dispose of these vessels in such uncertain times." But the Ministry of Defence said last night that the minehunters would have been 'unsuited' to the role required in the Shatt al-Arab waterway because they do not have helicopters. A spokesman said: "They are a completely different sort of vessel. The Cornwall and the minehunters are suited to completely different roles and, in the case of a minehunter, the role it would fulfil would not really be appropriate. "The only advantage it has got is that it can operate in shallower water because it's got a smaller draught." But a former Royal Navy commander told The Mail on Sunday: "These ships would have been ideal to carry out this mission. "They are much more manoeuvrable and would have been perfectly adequate for the job. "The only reason they were mothballed was to save money, and that decision has proved to be a costly mistake." Tory Shadow Defence Minister Dr Julian Lewis said: "The main problem is the massively reduced number of vessels in the fleet as a result of its dogma that numbers do not matter in the age of powerful ships. "But numbers do matter, and Gordon Brown's defence cuts mean we do not have significant vessels for duties like this."