The stricken U.S. warship Vella Gulf got back underway this past weekend but quickly returned to port following a fuel leak in the same tank that sidelined the guided-missile cruiser’s deployment late last month.

Officials are still assessing whether the latest fuel tank casualty that emerged as the ship steamed near the Virginia Capes was caused by the same corrosion and leakage issues that prompted the ship’s U-turn back to Norfolk last month after deploying with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.

The 27-year-old Vella Gulf got underway last weekend “following the recommendation of technical experts” and returned to Norfolk on Sunday, U.S. 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh said in an email to Navy Times this week.

The original leak on Vella Gulf “was due to a single tank corrosion, normal for seagoing vessels,” she said, adding that a maintenance team is working to determine whether the latest leak is tied to the prior casualty.

“We are confident in the work completed to identify defects and repair the tank earlier this month,” Walsh said. “The tank was inspected by qualified structural engineers and corroded and pitted areas were evaluated using established engineering methods and standards. Repairs were completed when required.”

Walsh added that “technical experts deemed the ship safe for sea and provided professional advice that informed the underway timeline.”

Vella Gulf’s crew remains restricted to the ship to minimize the chance of a COVID outbreak.

“The crew will remain onboard at this time until the extent of damage is being determined,” Walsh said.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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