Highlands & Islands

Precautionary checks of new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth Image copyright PETER JOLLY NORTHPIX
Image caption HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in the Cromarty Firth at the weekend

Checks are to be made of the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after debris became caught around one of its propeller shafts.

The ship is being put through sea trials after leaving Rosyth dockyard in Fife where it was built.

The item of debris cleared by itself and the propeller shaft was examined by divers.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Image copyright PETER JOLLY NORTHPIX
Image caption The aircraft carrier began sea trials last month

But as a precautionary measure, further checks are to be made during the carrier's pre-planned stopover in Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth in the Highlands.

A spokesman for the Aircraft Carrier Alliance said: "HMS Queen Elizabeth is making progress through her sea trials programme, which is designed to test the full spectrum of her systems.

"The ship is performing well, however, an item of debris was caught around one of the propeller shafts.

"This was subsequently cleared and an investigation has been undertaken."

HMS Queen Elizabeth Image copyright Peter Jolly Northpix
Image caption The arrival of the new ship in the Highlands has attracted public interest

The spokesman added: "The ship is currently in Invergordon for one of her planned stops during the trials programme, to store and re-fuel the ship.

"As a precautionary measure, we will use this opportunity to complete further thorough checks and ensure sea trials continue safely."

The Cromarty Firth has in the past been used as a stopover for the Royal Navy.

In 1907, dozens of warships carrying a total of more than 14,000 sailors anchored in the firth. From 1912 to 1993, it was the location of a Royal Navy base.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Image copyright PETER JOLLY NORTHPIX
Image caption The firth is a busy site at the moment with oil and gas rigs and cruise ships

The firth is now used for "parking" oil and gas rigs and other structures while they are not in use or in need of maintenance work carried out by yards at Nigg and Invergordon.

Invergordon is also destination for large cruise ships.

The Royal Navy's links to the port and firth have been maintained in modern times by visits by the frigate HMS Sutherland.

'Ensure safety'

The arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth over the weekend has drawn large crowds to the Highlands port.

However, various temporary road restrictions were put in place along the shores of the Cromarty Firth on the instructions of Police Scotland for road safety reasons.

These had included a 30mph speed limit and no stopping along stretches of the B9163 Cromarty to Culbokie road.

Unclassified roads and tracks leading to potential viewpoints to the carrier were also closed.

Road closed sign
Image caption Temporary restrictions were in place on roads along the shores of the Cromarty Firth

Road policing inspector, Neil Lumsden, said: "A number of temporary restrictions on local roads in the Cromarty and Invergordon areas were in place due to a high number of vessel movements in the firth.

"The restrictions were put in place to ensure public safety and to limit traffic congestion in the area. There were no issues."

HMS Queen Elizabeth - one of two new carriers being built at Rosyth dockyard in Fife at a cost of more than £6bn - began sea trials last month.

The ship had to pass under the Forth Bridge on its way to open sea.

It is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy. The flight deck alone is the size of three football pitches.

Once in service with the Royal Navy, the ship can operate with a crew of 1,000 and 40 aircraft.

The 65,000 tonne warship is the Royal Navy's first aircraft carrier since HMS Illustrious was scrapped in 2014.

HMS Queen Elizabeth at Invergordon
Image caption HMS Queen Elizabeth at Invergordon

All images are copyrighted.

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