Issues like this occur often on vessels of all types, especially during a phase of their life designed to identify and rectify faults. This is not a serious concern.

While some argue that this is a major issue it should be noted that the Royal Navy themselves seem confident that it will not impact the schedule of the vessel. This would appear to suggest they’re not too concerned. We spoke to someone serving on board the vessel via e-mail today, he told us under the condition of anonymity:

“We’re bemused, nothing more nothing less. This so called issue isn’t a new thing and it’s not what I would call serious. It’s getting fixed shortly. Most of us on board don’t care or don’t know about it it’s such a trivial matter. We’re not ‘sinking’ and we’re not ‘leaking’ anymore than any vessel would be. It’s disappointing to see how easily this has been blown out of proportion.”

It was reported this morning that internal pumps are clearing the water and the leak will be fixed before the carrier sails again, again nothing to be concerned about is happening on board the carrier.

It should also be noted that the Royal Navy accepted the vessel from the ACA off-contract and was aware of the shaft issue. The taxpayer will not be paying for the fix either.

 A Royal Navy spokesman said:

“An issue with a shaft seal has been identified during HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sea trials; this is scheduled for repair while she is alongside at Portsmouth. It does not prevent her from sailing again and her sea trials programme will not be affected.”

The Sun says that HMS Queen Elizabeth has been taking on up to 200 litres of sea water every hour.

“A faulty seal around one of the vast warship’s propeller shafts means 200 litres of sea water pour in every hour.”

A typical bilge pump even on a narrow boat, by the way, can handle over 1000 litres per hour.

Admiral Chris Parry told Sky News the leak was a non-issue:

“Every ship, to tell you the truth, takes on water that’s why you have pumps. What people have to realise is the whole reason for sea trials is that you race and rally the ship, you stress it right to its extremes, and you’re really looking for faults like this to see what happens. 

You get this all the time, you’ve got very complicated engineering under the water, it’s operating obviously at sea and every yachtsman will tell you they take in water somewhere, that’s what you’ve got pumps for, that’s why you have dedicated engineers, it really is no big deal I have to tell you.”

Headlines like this are the problem, not an issue with a seal.

The ThinPinstripedLine response to the story about the ‘leak’ can be found here and summarises today’s events very well.

“The issue affecting QUEEN ELIZABETH seems extremely minor, easily fixable and not remotely in the same league of problems that other ships have had. It is a testament to the quality of British shipbuilding skill, and the strength of the CVF design that she has come through trials with only very minor problems.

The battle for the Royal Navy though is pushing this narrative against a media determined to make a minor technical problem into a major PR disaster for the Navy. In the public mindset the front page news today will help set the narrative for the ships early life, regardless of how utterly untrue it is.

Part of this stems from a lack of understanding on the purpose of sea trials, or that faults will occur, but that they are easily fixable. It also stems from the problem that as papers have scrapped their specialist journalists, the days when deep experts like Desmond Wettern could be relied on to provide deep knowledge and understanding, spotting when an issue was a non-event, or equally when what the RN wanted to make out was a non-event was actually a scoop are long gone.”

The shaft seal issue was identified during trials and seemingly was not deemed serious enough to delay subsequent activities. While obviously this is an issue, it’s not a major issue as the 200 litres an hour will easily be handled by the ships pumps until the issue is resolved, which it will be before she sails. To put it in perspective, that’s around two bath tubs of water.


  1. Press reports make it sound as if HMS QE is fighting to stay afloat against a torrent of water, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Titanic hit that lump of ice. Why hasn’t the ship been abandoned and the crew taken to the lifeboats…and surely HMS QE’s captain will do the decent thing and go down with his ship? I hope The Sun will be on the ball to answer these crucial questions. I mean…200 litres per hour! How can any ship take that and remain afloat?

    Seriously, though, this non-event is laughable. I am no fan of the government or MoD, but I wish they would be far more robust and really go after non-stories like this and expose them for the complete nonsense that they are. Instead, they put out a bland statement. That really should be enough to suffice should we be living in a world where accuracy, consideration and perspective are taken for granted. But we’re not; the media is hysterical and sensationalist. Indeed, the media seems to live perpetually in a state of hysteria, and the MoD has to understand that, and react quickly and decisively to stamp on this sort of rubbish. 200 litres per hour…my bog-standard fish-tank pump will cope with 300 litres per hour and cost me £7 about 6 months ago. If the public had any sense of perspective, they would recognise this for the patent nonsense that it is. Sadly, we are living in the Facebook/Twitterstorm age where facts go out of the window and hysteria is king.

  2. I think I have an idea for the MoD as to how to put a stop to this kind of infantile reporting. I’d suggest they invite the tabloid (and distressingly sometimes serious) defence correspondents in for a briefing and shine a torchlight against the wall. The little darlings will chase after it until they’re exhausted and ready for nap time. When they wake up they’ll have completely forgotten what it was they were so excited about !

    • Is there such a beast these days as a “serious” defence corespondent. From what I’ve seen onhere in recent months most of them live in La La Land.

      • @Geoffrey the FT, Times and BBC usually get things about right, but they are not writing/broadcasting for specialist audiences (ie: us here) but for everybody, so they are going to be generalist. Also, they are not going to be ‘pro’ (or particularly ‘anti’) defence that’s not their job – that’s the job of the MoD press office.

        (As for being anti-UK defence, well any of the Russian sponsored news organisations for starters, plus various commentators in the Guardian)

        best of the season to you!

  3. As an ex-seaman who over the years have served on many ships i have to say what a load of b*****ks theses people are reporting
    I can understand why they are as these so called super carriers (as they are so called by certain people ) they are the mainstay of the little fleet we have left ( probably get told off for saying that as well )
    Most ships have leaks around that area and they can be fixed thats what bilch pumps are for
    Its when you have a hole in the side is when the problem is serious

  4. Shouldn’t affect the resale price of these monsterous antiques, so we can sell to the USMC or KSA and allow the money to be reinvested into key capabilities 😉

  5. If a ship this size couldn’t handle a leak of 3 litres a minute then I think it would be ok to be alarmed but it can and this will be fixed anyway as they know where the leak is.
    If they had a picture of the ship listing to the side and people jumping off in terror then I’d start thinking we may have an issue.

  6. A few remarks from some fellow seaman on RFAs
    Lyness 1977, prop shaft seal leak, dry dock Wallsend
    Resource stern gland
    REGENT, 1968, first commission, had to destore, dry dock and repair leaking stern gland in in Singapore.
    It’s not unusual.

  7. Even the BBC ran this as there main headline this morning and they should know better, and they continue to mention the cost in every other word. Anti defence in the mainstream media is not helpful to our armed forces one bit.

    • @Robert, it isn’t ‘anti defence’ to mention the cost. It is proper reporting. I’d expect a journalist to tell me the cost of any major infrastructure project. Anything else would not be decent reporting

      • It is anti defence the BBC and should not keep mentioning cost we all know what it cost and massive carriers don’t come cheap .. We should be more concerned about TV licence fee cost for the BBC to keep spinning left wing lies

      • Proper reporting is to put it in context of what is required for a nation that is both wealthy & critically dependent on maritime trade. Proper reporting would be to not throw a hysterical fit, making out it’s more like 200 gallons a minute & portraying it as poor workmanship/design. The reality they’ve decided to forget is that leaks like this are common to new ships & not worthy of note across prime time news. BBC standards are abysmal as proved by their take on this non-story.
        There’s SO much that should be reported on of genuine & grave concern in our dangerously stretched armed forces, yet all they can do is snipe to demean its few plus points.

  8. Stern glands leak.
    They have an upper limit for XX Ltr/Min which when passed you change them out.
    Some you can do afloat some you need to dry dock.
    Its nothing new and it isn’t a disaster unless
    for instance you are on a recent T45 deployment cut short because of the same issue.

  9. Another, more important question – How was such a minor issue made public in the first place? Is the source a trouble maker on board ‘leaking‘ the information? (pun most certainly intended!) Perhaps the powers that be should track down the perpetrator and ensure that any future information in the press is rather less negative.

  10. 12 v Submersible Bilge Pump – 360 gallons per hour – £17.95 + P&P. Float switch extra.

    Maybe we should club together and send them one for a laugh!

  11. Navy Lookout has tweated about the stern seal face having minor damage and how it would be repaired. I’m no naval architect but it sounds a fairly routine procedure. Oh and apparently it isn’t leaking now it is alongside, again courtesy of Navy Lookout.

  12. I just love the fact the news even reported it as being inconsequential, but then went on to try and make out it was a major embarrassment because of all the other news reports that had gone before……a sort of “look I know this does not really matter but all the other stuff we’ve reported on about the carriers put together clearly makes it worth reporting this rubbish” approach.

    I do find it disturbing how the modern media seem to try and create self fulfilling stories, by building one dross story onto the next in a bid to create news.

    As for the leak, it’s a boat it’s got holes in, they leak, all boats leak a bit………generally only the Canadians get worked up over these things.

  13. Surely the “defence correspondents” who on behalf of their respective rags have been presenting us with any amount of drivel, pig ignorance and un-researched “facts” can make something out of the seemingly hurried exit from her dry-dock by the Prince of Wales corresponding with HMS Queen Elizabeth,s defective mechanical seal


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