The mystery of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth continues this morning – after a night in which the multi-million pound warship has lain at anchor off the island of Flatholm in what appeared to be total darkness.
The ship had been due to dock in Cardiff yesterday afternoon and this morning was to have welcomed-aboard visitors from the town of Monmouth – but that event, which had been arranged weeks ago, was abruptly cancelled yesterday because of what the Ministry of Defence called “external factors“.
Some speculated that HMS Monmouth had been delayed for some undisclosed reason – and had missed yesterday afternoon’s tide to enter Cardiff.
However – the ship made no attempt to enter Cardiff on this morning’s 03:45 tide either – and appeared to be showing no navigation lights as she remained at anchor.
This morning the Ministry of Defence came up with another explanation for Monmouth’s delay. An MoD spokesman said “The issue which has caused the delay is that there is no berth in Cardiff“.
The MoD said HMS Monmouth “has been in the area for a while as you know but there was a commercial alternative – and, as ever, commercial vessels are given priority so Monmouth has been waiting there and will go in when there is a berth ready. ”
As dawn broke this morning the long grey ship could again be seen riding at anchor from Penarth Pier and Penarth Esplanade – to the right of the islands as viewed from Penarth. She should be brought into Cardiff with an escort of tugs after 16:00.
The Ministry of Defence said today there was “definitely no technical issue” with the ship . HMS Monmouth is a Type 23 frigate – not to be confused with the Royal Navy’s notorious Type 45 destroyers which have what the Navy calls “a major design flaw” in their intercoolers which can cause their diesel generators to trip out, leaving the destroyers without any electricity or means of propulsion.
The 12 Type 23s – including HMS Monmouth – however, also have a similar power system and are all due to have their power generators replaced – starting later his year . Each of the dozen ships will be equipped with four new Rolls Royce MTU 12V 4000 M53B diesel gensets, as part of the Royal Navy’s vessel “life extension” program.
PDN correspondent “Shipspotter” said he had tracked HMS Monmouth and had found she had “arrived as planned of Barry but due to an unfortunate oversight her allocated tugs were deployed elsewhere – docking a chemical tanker called “Bomar Quest” at Barry Docks”. Shipspotter comments “If this is true then the words ‘POOR ORGANISATION ‘ and ‘LEAVING A MULTI-MILLION POUND FRIGATE STUCK IN THE CHANNEL ‘ take some explaining.”
A PDN source at Cardiff Docks confirmed that HMS Monmouth is now expected to dock this afternoon – but was not able to comment on the statement made by the MoD .
It is unprecedented for a naval vessel to be held up because of commercial shipping in Cardiff – especially a fighting vessel which is undertaking a high-profile public visit .
On Sunday the crew of Monmouth is due to take part in a formal military and civic ceremony after marching through the centre of Monmouth to mark the close links of the ship to her eponymous town.
This morning the people of Monmouth and Monmouthshire were to have been invited on board between 10:00 and 14:00 for a rare chance for them to see ‘their own’ warship at first hand and meet the crew – but it appears this arrangement has had to be cancelled.
UPDATE: HMS Monmouth docked in Cardiff at at 15:30 this afternoon.