Tug detained by inspectors over dangerous flaws

DETAINED Hibernia at Portsmouth International Port last week. Picture: Paul Appleyard
DETAINED Hibernia at Portsmouth International Port last week. Picture: Paul Appleyard

MoD commits to keeping costs down on HMS Queen Elizabeth and F-35s

Have your say

A TUG that was due to tow one of the Royal Navy’s former frigates from Portsmouth has been detained and deemed ‘dangerously unsafe’ by the coastguard.

Hibernia arrived in Portsmouth Harbour last week to tow Type 22 frigate Cornwall to a scrapyard in Swansea.

But on arrival, inspectors from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) found she was unsafe for the towing operation.

The tug’s owners, Kent-based GPS Marine, say they have sacked the ship’s Russian crew and are planning to send the vessel to her home port for repairs.

John Spencer, the managing director of GPS Marine, told The News: ‘We were seriously disappointed and embarrassed by the evidently low standard of onboard management by the tug’s officers while she had been outside Europe.

‘The tug had just returned from many months in Africa.

‘Portsmouth was the first UK port at which our shore superintendents could attend and, in any case, some repairs had been planned to be carried out in Swansea.’

The tug has been berthed at Portsmouth International Port since last week. GPS Marine says it has dismissed and repatriated the vessel’s master, chief officer, and chief engineer.

It is not known when the frigate Cornwall will now be towed out.

Meanwhile, Turkish shipbreaking firm Leyal Recycling – which has the contract to tow away the other three frigates – has already taken one away. The next two are due to sail some time this week.

A spokesman for the MCA said: ‘We detained a tug at Portsmouth Harbour as it is dangerously unsafe.

‘We inspected it and found a large number of deficiencies and substantial non-compliance with merchant shipping requirements.

‘The owners and operators are now making repairs to meet statutory safety standards.

‘Disposal and transit of old warships is controlled by the Ministry of Defence’s Disposal and Reserve Ships Organisation to ensure safe transit and disposal of such a large floating object, and MCA inspection is an important part of the overall process of that control.’

Mr Spencer denied the vessel was dangerous, but added: ‘We concede a number of relatively minor deficiencies were identified on board.

‘The tug passed special survey only 19 months ago, however, further inspections after the detention have revealed some more significant defects that will require the services of a shipyard to correct.’