SAILORS on the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier have revealed they are revved up and excited for 2019 - and finally sailing their vessel into Portsmouth for the first time.
Engineers in Rosyth, Scotland, have been working relentlessly to finish HMS Prince of Wales, Britain’s second £3.1bn supercarrier.
But the vessel’s progress has been overshadowed by the success of her sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which last month returned to Portsmouth after a successful maiden trip to America to test Britain’s new stealth jet, the F-35B.
But now Prince of Wales’s crew are all set to take centre stage in an exciting year for the 65,000-tonne behemoth.
Captain Steve Moorhouse, HMS Prince of Wales’ commanding officer, said 2019 would be a ‘significant year’ for Prince of Wales, with the ship’s company moving on board, sailing from Rosyth, completing sea trials and then finally making our first entry in to our home port, Portsmouth.
Speaking to exclusively to The News, Capt Moorhouse said: ‘There’s a growing sense of anticipation and excitement amongst the ship’s company as we take on more responsibility for the ship and slowly breathe life into her.
‘Every week brings a new milestone, a compartment completed, machinery started or an IT system tested.
‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’s progress has been incredible and she has set a very high bar. However, working with her and learning from her, HMS Prince of Wales will soon enter the fleet and offer defence a world-leading continuous carrier capability.’
The exact date of the ship’s arrival into Portsmouth has not yet been revealed. However, it is expected to be later in the year.
But it is expected that when she does sail home for the first time, she will bring with her a crowd of thousands to the city to witness the landmark occasion.
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival pulled in crowds of about 250,000 to the city’s seafront.
Councillor Donna Jones, who was Portsmouth City Council leader when Queen Elizabeth first arrived, hoped Prince of Wales would have just as much pulling power.
She said: ‘The arrival of HMS Prince of Wales will be a huge event not just in Portsmouth but for the whole of the country.
‘If it is anything like the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth 18 months ago, it will be an unforgettable spectacle which will be watched by hundreds of thousands of people in Portsmouth and millions more across the globe.’
Capt Moorhouse added there was still more work to go but said he and the ship’s company were determined to make Prince of Wales one of Britain’s mightiest warship ever.
‘HMS Prince of Wales is a name steeped in naval history and we aim to add to this,’ he said. ‘We are focused on making our mark in the fleet, building the special relationships with our friends and affiliates and, of course, with Portsmouth, which will be our home for the next 50 years.’