Mechanical fault leads to delay in frigate heading to the Gulf

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THE deployment of HMS St Albans to the Gulf has been delayed by at least one week because of mechanical problems.

The Type 23 frigate was scheduled to leave Portsmouth last Tuesday but engineers discovered a defect with the ship’s stabilisers which prevent her from rolling in rough seas.

On Monday, the Royal Navy said it was a ‘minor fault’ and the ship would sail on Thursday.

But that deadline came and went without the ship leaving Portsmouth Naval Base.

Now the Royal Navy said she will not leave before next Tuesday.

A spokesman said: ‘Engineers had a more detailed look at the ship and realised it would take longer than they originally thought to fix.

‘It’s the sort of thing they could repair at sea but it’s easier to do the repairs here.

‘St Albans will not leave until at least Tuesday now. These things happen, fortunately not very often, but they do happen and we’ll have it fixed as soon as we can.’

The frigate is due to take over duties in the Gulf and Indian Ocean from her Portsmouth-based sister ship HMS Iron Duke, which is due to return home next month.

St Albans spent almost seven months in the Middle East last year, returning home in August.

She recently underwent maintenance work to her equipment and superstructure following the intensely hot weather in the Gulf and her crew have been training off the coast of Plymouth and Scotland in preparation for their next deployment.

The ship was all set to go when the fault with her stabilisers – which control how much the ship rolls from side to side at sea – was picked up.

Defence expert Steve Bush, from Warship World magazine, said the problem comes as no surprise.

He said: ‘We’ve got fewer ships being asked to do more and more work so it’s no surprise we’re getting niggles like this.

‘Warships are very complex bits of machinery and they do occasionally go wrong, especially as there is greater pressure on the fleet than before.’

Mr Bush, who served in the navy for 22 years, said it was possible St Albans could be out of action for longer.

He said: ‘It depends on what needs to be done to fix the ship. She may need to be taken into dry dock, for instance.

‘For the sailors it does mean an extra few days at home but from my experience you’ve already said your goodbyes and you’re mentally ready to go away for six months so it’s a bit of a let down when something like this happens.

‘You’re left in a sort of limbo land knowing eventually you’ll have to say your goodbyes all over again so it can be a mixed blessing.’