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- HMS Queen Elizabeth has been leaking for weeks thanks to a faulty seal.
- The problem is around the stern (rear) propeller shaft.
- Sailors spotted the issue during sea trials last month.
- The ship is taking on around 200 litres of water an hour.
- It sounds like a lot, but naval sources say the problem is minor.
The Royal Navy’s newest, biggest, most powerful, and most expensive ever warship is leaking.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, which formally joined the navy’s fleet earlier this month, is taking on approximately 200 litres per hour because a seal around one of its stern (rear) propeller shafts has broken.
The Royal Navy confirmed the problem on Tuesday morning after a report in The Sun newspaper said it had been noted while the ship was carrying out sea trials in November.
An unnamed source speaking to the newspaper described the fault as “pretty significant,” though it did not stop the ship sailing or being accepted formally into the Royal Navy.
A defence source speaking to Business Insider on Tuesday played down the seriousness of the issue, saying that on a scale of one to 10 it was probably “a two.”
— Helen Miller (@MsHelicat) December 18, 2017
Business Insider was invited on board HMS Queen Elizabeth on December 5, which was after the leak was discovered but before The Sun’s report made it public.
Captain Jerry Kyd, the ship’s commanding officer, told Business Insider during an interview that the sea trials had been a success.
Discussing the ship’s performance, including the engine systems specifically, he said “it all works very well.” Here’s a clip of the exchange:
Though 200 litres per hour sounds like a lot, it is a relatively small amount of water compared to the total capacity of the ship, which has been draining the water using pumps.
According to the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, which built the ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s bilge system can hold 83,000 litres of water, a quantity which would take 17 days to fill under the current rate of the leak, even if none of it were drained.
The Royal Navy said in a statement: “An issue with a shaft seal has been identified during HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sea trials; this is scheduled for repair while she is alongside at Portsmouth.
“It does not prevent her from sailing again and her sea trials programme will not be affected.”