After arriving on 8th April, HMS Queen Elizabeth has completed her dry dock inspection and today left Rosyth to return to Portsmouth for a period of sea trials and training in preparation for her Westlant19 deployment.
The ship has spent the last six weeks in Rosyth where around 100 workers replaced 284 hull valves while both rudder blades were removed and cleaned, sea inlet pipes were inspected, all sacrificial anodes were replaced, and the anti-fouling paint was renewed. Both anchors and cables were also laid out in the dock for inspection. The inspections were a mandatory requirement to maintain her Lloyds rules certification and its successful completion should mean she will not need to be dry docked for another six years.
Marine Engineering Officer, Cdr Mark Hamilton said: “It’s the first time that such a short docking period has taken place with a Royal Navy ship of this size. It’s a real testament to the great working relationship forged between the MOD and industry to make this such a success. We’ll now carry the concept forwards to future docking periods, as well as to those of our sister ship HMS Prince of Wales”. The project was completed on time after the ship entered dry dock ahead of schedule, despite an initial delay to entering the basin because of bad weather.
Captain Nick Cooke-Priest remains in command of HMS Queen Elizabeth for the journey to Portsmouth but is being relieved prematurely as punishment for the misuse of an official car. Captain Steve Moorhouse, the current CO of HMS Prince of Wales, will take charge of the ship on 28th May. Captain Darren Houston, the former Executive Officer of QE will take over as CO of HMS Prince of Wales.
The RN leadership has taken considerable flack in the media, and even from its own advocates, over the difficult decision to take disciplinary action against Captain Cooke-Priest. The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee even questioned the new Defence Secretary in Parliament about the Navy’s decision. The minister quite rightly replied, “it is a matter for the Royal Navy”. Reliable sources say that there is no sinister alternative motive and the Service must handle misdeeds by senior officers in the same way it would treat junior personnel. If the RN had swept the issue under the carpet and it had later been discovered, there would have been similar howls of criticism – a case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’. There is no suggestion of deliberate fraud on the part of Captain Cooke-Priest who retains his rank and a job in the Navy, where there is considerable personal sympathy for an officer with an otherwise fine record.
(Subsequent to publishing this article, the RN decided to relieve Capt Cooke-Priest immediately and the XO, Capt Houston has taken over for the journey south to Portsmouth. After remaining at anchor in the Forth during 22nd May, she passed under the Forth Bridges just after midday on 23rd May)