hms queen elizabeth

Leak repairs on the £3bn HMS Queen Elizabeth will not cost taxpayers

Image credit: reuters

Repairs to leaks on the UK’s largest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will not be funded with taxpayer money, according to the defence secretary Gavin Williamson.

The new £3.1bn aircraft carrier was only officially commissioned by the queen two weeks ago, but an issue with a shaft seal has been identified during sea trials that lets water into the ship.

“This is scheduled for repair while she is alongside at Portsmouth,” a Royal Navy spokesman said. “It does not prevent her from sailing again and her sea trials programme will not be affected.”

Williamson said that the work will be funded by “the contractors who built her”.

“This is the reason why we have the sea trials, to make sure that everything is working absolutely perfectly,” he said.

“This is something that work is currently ongoing to deal with, and HMS Queen Elizabeth will be going out early on in the new year to continue her sea trials and making sure she is fully operable in terms of helicopters and the F-35 being able to fly off her deck.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth is the most magnificent aircraft carrier in the world and, when she is fully operational and she is being deployed right around the world, she is going to make a significant difference as to what we can actually achieve and what we are able to do as a global power.”

“This isn’t going to cost the British taxpayer a penny,” he said.

The vessel, which is 65,000 tonnes and 280m long, has an estimated working life of half a century and is believed to have been leaking for some time.

The Sun newspaper reported that it was letting in 200 litres of water every hour and the fix would cost millions of pounds.

Other sources have reported that it will not cost millions, but that the bill could still reach into the hundreds of thousands.

A spokeswoman for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) said the leaky seal was known about prior to HMS Queen Elizabeth being commissioned and accepted into the Royal Navy.

She added that the vessel could be taken to sea, that the problem is expected to take a couple of days to fix, and that it should be rectified in the new year - without any need to take the ship into a dry dock.

“It is normal practice for a volume of work and defect resolution to continue following vessel acceptance,” she said.

“This will be completed prior to the nation’s flagship recommencing her programme at sea in 2018.”

The spokeswoman said the ACA, a group of companies which built the ship, has a six-month period of time in which adjustments and “snagging issues” can be dealt with and rectified.

She said these costs will be covered by the ACA and the industry bodies involved in her construction - which includes BAE Systems and Babcock and Thales.

A number of shipbuilding yards around the country were involved in building the vessel, including Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow, Appledore in Devon, Cammell Laird in Liverpool, and A&P on the Tyne in Newcastle and Portsmouth.

More than 10,000 people worked on the ship, which was built in sections at yards around the UK and transported to Rosyth, Fife, where it was assembled.

In September the head of the Royal Navy said that computer ‘assistants’ with a ‘mind’ will be installed on warships in the future in order to support sea captains. 

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