Corrosion caused a fuel tank leak in the guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf, forcing the warship to return to port last week as it began a deployment with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, officials said Wednesday.
But according to U.S. 2nd Fleet, it remains to be determined exactly how long the repairs will take.
Still, officials are optimistic that the ship will be able to resume its mission soon, and Vella Gulf remains in a deployed status, according to 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Ashley Hockycko.
“This is an ongoing situation and more information will be provided once it becomes available,” she said in an email.
The cruiser returned home from its previous deployment with the Ike in August.
The leak in one of the cruiser’s engineering spaces came as the ship was crossing the Atlantic Ocean in heavy seas.
Fuel tank issues have plagued the Ticonderoga-class cruisers in the past, according to Bradley Martin, a retired Navy surface warfare officer who is now a policy analyst at the Rand Corp.
“This isn’t really a hazard to the crew, but it does involve draining the tank and performing repairs on the corroded areas,” Martins told Navy Times. “This is something that occurs over time and wouldn’t necessarily be connected with rough seas or any other abnormal condition.”
Depending on which tank was affected, overall fuel capacity and thus ship endurance could be affected, he added.
While the issues aboard Vella Gulf emerged as it was transiting some rough seas, officials don’t believe that played a role in the casualty.
Meanwhile, because the ship remains in a deployed status, the crew is being kept onboard so as to keep their COVID-free bubble secure.
Most of the sailors on board received the first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine before the ship departed.
Leadership is keeping the crew updated on the status of repairs, Hockycko said, while balancing “mission focus and crew morale.”
“The crew is doing extremely important work outside of the tank repairs to include maintaining their equipment and performing corrective maintenance,” she said.
Vella Gulf is tied up at its own pier, and the crew is allowed to exercise there during off hours.
A friends and family package drop off is planned for the coming days, as is a morale day featuring catered barbecue, Hockycko said.