HMS Queen Elizabeth to enter Portsmouth for the first time on 16th August

It has now been confirmed HMS Queen Elizabeth will enter Portsmouth on the morning of Wednesday 16th August, arriving around 07.10. The date has been brought forward from the original plan of 18th August because the forecast is for rain and the wind on the days after the 16th.

If conditions for an entry are good, the ship will leave Outer Spit Buoy at 0649 and pass Round Tower at 0709. Six tugs will be available to guide her into the harbour and to assist her coming alongside. She should begin berthing at the new Princess Royal Jetty about 10 minutes later and the whole process, including getting new gangways in place, could take up to two hours. Her entry into harbour will be accompanied by a flypast of Merlin and Wildcat helicopters, plus Hawk jets of 736 Naval Air Squadron.

The wind limit for the carriers safe entry into Portsmouth is 15kts. They will normally enter or leave at slack water, just after the time of high tide. The decision to bring the arrival time forward was governed by wind conditions, tidal conditions and visibility. It is also helpful for the media coverage to have dry conditions. Wind and rain is forecast for later in the week and the next weather window, would probably not be until Sunday or Monday. The early morning arrival time is not ideal for many of those wishing to see her but operational considerations come first. Portsmouth City Council and the Police have been considering arrangements for this event for some time as large crowds are expected. If you are planning to come and watch there is transport information here.

Trials going well but plans change

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance that constructed the ship had originally planned to bring the ship back to Rosyth between the end of Phase 1 (machinery) trials and the Phase 2 (weapons/sensors/communications) trials. This has been revised so that QE will enter Portsmouth after completion of Phase 1. With excellent facilities already in place, and Portsmouth harbour considerably easier to get in and out of than Rosyth, this makes sense. It will also be especially welcome for the ship’s company to be in their home port and get some well-deserved leave. QE is likely to then be alongside for at least 6-8 weeks for planned engineering work.

Harbour dredging operations and the construction of the Princess Royal Jetty, where the Queen Elizbeth class carriers will berth in Portsmouth, are all complete. Inshore survey craft, HMS Gleaner was recalled early from her planned work in Jersey and has been conducting a bathymetric survey of the harbour seabed and the Spithead anchorages. Her measurements will provide confidence that there is the adequate depth of water for a ship that has a draught of 11 m. Additional extra contractors have been brought in to Portsmouth Naval Base in the last few weeks to ensure shoreside facilities needed for the ship are ready, slightly earlier than had been expected.

When HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth it will be another landmark moment for the Royal Navy and its centrepiece aircraft carrier programme.

Despite the issues with the propeller shafts that required 2 weeks alongside in Invergordon, other aspects of the trials have gone exceptionally well. Although not yet property of the Navy, the Captain and crew are reportedly very pleased with the ship’s performance which has mostly exceeded expectations so far.