Rectification work on HMS Queen Elizabeth will not cost the taxpayer a penny, the Defence Secretary has insisted.

BAE Systems said the repair would take a few days. They’re quoted as saying:

“It is normal practice for a volume of work and defect resolution to continue following vessel acceptance. This will be completed prior to the nation’s flagship recommencing her programme at sea in 2018.”

Pressed on suggestions that repairs could cost millions, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the cost would be met by contractors: “This isn’t going to cost the British taxpayer a penny.”

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.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I really wish this phrase of 200L of water “pouring in” every hour would go away. That is not “pouring in”. The sort of bilge pumps that a weekend boater with a canal barge would buy could handle that sort of volume. I can’t be bothered to do the maths but I wonder, as a silly thought exercise, how long she would take to sink if this water wasn’t pumped out. Years I suspect.

    • 200 litres per hour is 55ml per second. So, the leak would fill a typical 330ml pop tin in 6 seconds. Hardly “pouring in” as the media put it. My aquarium pump handles 300 litres per hour and cost me £7. Navy Lookout tweated that the leakage was zero since she came alongside. It appears to me that the media has lost all sense of perspective and context in reporting, plus they do not understand the concept of sea trials. They are all in a circulation and link-clicking war, desperate for revenue, and bad news, even manufactured bad news, sells better than good news. Also, the media love to build something or someone up, then do their best to knock it or them down. HMS QE is a wonderful target for them as it is large and has that magical £3bn price tag. We can expect the same for any large ticket item such as the Type 26s and Dreadnoughts.

  2. As usual the Press makes a huge Mount Everest out of a molehill giveing the Sneerers and malcontents ammunition to spout their invective. Sea tests are are carried out to proove systems and technology and thats what has happened.
    Gods save us from the sensational,ism from the Media for when there is a real problem crying wolf disguises the fact

    • I think the term “reporter” should be banned and replaced with something like fairy tales executive or fanciful nonsense co ordinator. More and more these days items are not reported but pitched or slanted to reflect the tellers own views. Just look at most of the political comment we get now. Most of it it absolute rubbish.

  3. PRESS TAKE NOTE AND PRINT THIS SENSATIONAL STORY
    During sea trials of RFA Fort Grange ( as she was originally named ) we to had problems
    When we got back to Greenock after three months of trials the powers that be found faults like any other new ship
    The one the really cought my attention the most was the ship was split open in a few places which were very noticeable on deck so what it was like down below i cant comment
    These where fairly bad defects but thats what trials are for
    The builders fixed it and the rest is history
    In fact the Grange and her sister Austin are still in front line service after 40yrs yes thats what i said 40yrs
    So it just goes to prove what a non story about the carrier is
    PRINT THAT STORY PRESS

  4. The seals in question are made by Wartsila and are presumably identical to hundreds of other units in service on merchant vessels around the world. I wonder how other users of this product are viewing the hysterical coverage of this ‘story’.

  5. Assume seals for Pow will be part of same batch and will be quietly getting remedied along with a string of other minor punch list issues as we type / read.

    • Pete – In which case I hope it has already been done because PoW was floated out this morning. Not that the BBC or MSM would notice ….

  6. The actual bilge pumps fitted can pump 600000 litrds an hour so ag currdnt rate of leakage you nedd to wait around 50 hours to run pump for 1 minute

  7. This is an interesting article in a lot of ways. I see your news media is as bad as ours here is the States.

    I am very familiar with Wärtsilä seals and can tell you that they do manufacture one of the best water lubricated seals in the world.

    There are a number of reasons why this seal my be leaking more than design and a number of them could have been operator error. That aside, this seal type is on likely over a thousand naval and commercial ships and incorporates an emergency seal that can stop 100% of the water leakage if the ship chooses to activate it. If the leak was so bad the ship could not keep up with the inflow they would certainly activate the emergency seal. Clearly in this case it was not.

  8. We clearly live in a world where ignorance is no barrier to making a living as a reporter. A world where people have lost the ability to dissect and criticise ‘news’ or ‘facts’ because apparently if it is on their PC / Lappie / Tablet or phone ‘it must be true’.
    Twatter, Basefook and social media have a lot to answer for as they are fertile ground for those wishing to peddle false information because for decades our kids have been taught to accept rather than challenge. Only this week we had the way a Twatter storm was caused by one idiot saying the change to a new blue passport was going to cost £500 Mn when it turns out it is the cost of the next 11 year contract for the design, printing, assembly and distribution of passports. A cost that would have happened regardless of colour! And everybody peddled the lie.

    Personally I think the FSL should have kept a straight face, phoned the Sun, given an exclusive interview confirming the QE was awash with water in all compartments, was sinking by the stern and as the UK didn’t have the technology to pump water and to avoid blocking Portsmouth harbour she was being towed out to Weymouth Bay to rest as a diving and coral facility to enable greater understanding our environment.

    Having said that the Green party would complain it should have been sunk off Brighton and I do believe the Sun would have printed the story ….

    And on that joyous note can I wish everyone a Happy Xmas, a peaceful 2018 and God Bless all those in uniform who are unable to be with their families.

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