Photo of HMS Prince of Wales leaving Portsmouth earlier this year.
HMS Prince of Wales leaving Portsmouth earlier this year.

New system issue delays HMS Prince of Wales' departure again

Photo of HMS Prince of Wales leaving Portsmouth earlier this year.
HMS Prince of Wales leaving Portsmouth earlier this year.

The departure of HMS Prince of Wales for repairs in Rosyth is on hold again, despite the warship having been listed to sail earlier today.

The carrier was due to depart at 10:50 but what's been described as 'an emergent issue on one of the ship's systems' delayed the ship's trip to Scotland.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: "HMS Prince of Wales is preparing to sail to Rosyth to undergo repairs to her right propeller shaft.

"The full extent of the repairs will be known once the ship has entered dry dock. We are committed to getting HMS Prince of Wales back on operations, protecting the nation and our allies, as soon as possible."

HMS Prince of Wales is now listed to sail again at 22:55 today but it is not clear at this stage if there will be further delays.

The £3 billion aircraft carrier is due for repairs to her right propeller shaft after a mechanical fault was discovered just 48 hours after she left Portsmouth for America in August.

She had been due to take part in military exercises in the Atlantic with US partners and F-35s as well as hosting the Atlantic Future Forum conference in New York.

Another departure - Monday 3 October - was also missed, reportedly because engineers failed to remove the damaged propeller in time.

Watch: HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth after suffering damage.

Inspections by divers and engineers found that the 33-ton starboard propeller – the same weight as 30 Ford Fiesta cars – had malfunctioned and the coupling holding it in place had broken.

The 65,000-tonne ship had been brought back to Portsmouth for further examination by engineers from Babcock before the decision was taken for it to travel to Rosyth, where it was built, to undergo the repairs in dry dock.

Divers surveyed the damage to the aircraft carrier's starboard propellor and shaft, following her breakdown.

The propeller shaft is made up of a number of 'steel poles' joined together, with the engine on one end and the propeller on the other.

Each of the poles is joined together with a 'shaft coupling', which is where the fault has been identified on the Prince of Wales.

Watch: HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York in place of HMS Prince of Wales.

The Navy has not commented on how long the repairs are expected to take or how long HMS Prince of Wales will be absent from its role as NATO flagship, but it is understood to be months rather than weeks.

Its sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth changed its autumn plans to travel to the US to take over some of the planned engagements, including hosting the Atlantic Future Forum in New York – a defence conference aimed at strengthening bonds between the UK and US.

Rear Admiral Steve Moorhouse, director of Force Generation, who is responsible for making sure Royal Navy ships are ready to deploy, has previously said: "Royal Navy divers have inspected the starboard shaft of the ship and the adjacent areas and they have confirmed there is significant damage to the shaft on the propeller and some superficial damage to the rudder but no damage to the rest of the ship.

"Our initial assessment has shown that coupling that joins the final two sections of the shaft has failed.

"Now, this is an extremely unusual fault and we continue to pursue all repair options," he added.