RFA Wave Knight. Crown copyright

Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker cannot put to sea after £14m refit

RFA Wave Knight is reportedly unable to put to sea after a £14m refit. The fast fleet tanker is currently alongside in Birkenhead, having not deployed since Exercise Cougar 14 a year ago.

The Plymouth Herald reports sketchy details about the auxiliary “not meeting the requirements for Royal Navy military training”. Taken in hand by Cammell Laird late last year, the 16-yr-old tanker has spent about twelve months alongside.

An RN spokesman told the Herald that Wave Knight “is safe”, adding: “Assessment of the required rectification is currently ongoing. It is therefore too early to provide an estimate [for how much more money will have to be spent on the refit].”

It appears that despite the £14m spent so far, something mechanical – and pretty fundamental – has gone wrong with Wave Knight. Further details are not immediately obvious, though from what is available so far it may be the case that the ship has failed some part of her post-refit working up.

Wave Knight has had a varied career with the RFA, visiting ports around the world in support of RN and allied naval operations. A number of operational deployments culminated in 15 months spent on Atlantic Patrol Task North in 2013-14, where her 77 RFA crew were joined by three RN sailors and a detachment from the US Coast Guard. The tanker was employed on anti-drug-running operations, with her American guests carrying out the law enforcement function.

She returned to Portland Naval Base in April 2014 and was briefly deployed on Ex Cougar 14 in September that year.

In April 2015, during Wave Knight’s refit, about 200 personnel working aboard the ship had to be evacuated after an oxy-acetylene gas canister caught fire on the quayside. It is not thought that fire is related to today’s mechanical woes.

Last year the BBC reported that two RFAs were stuck alongside due to a shortage of engineers in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary service.