The guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf is finally underway after enduring multiple technical issues that prevented it from deploying for months.
“USS Vella Gulf returned to sea today to conduct sea trials following repairs to a recent engineering casualty,” 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh said in a statement Wednesday. “Sea trials will test the ship’s system efficiency and ensure proficiency at sea.”
The Vella Gulf has encountered a series of problems since February, when the ship initially deployed with the Dwight D. Eisenhower’s carrier strike group. The ship returned to its homeport of Norfolk less than a week later though, due to a fuel oil leak.
Vella Gulf has suffered yet another “engineering casualty” preventing it from deploying.
The ship then attempted to deploy in March, but was stricken with a fuel leak in the same tank that had posed problems the month before and the ship turned back to Norfolk.
Problems persisted. Another engineering casualty was detected this month during pre-underway checks, and Walsh said in a statement at the time that “crewmembers discovered debris in a main reduction gear lube oil strainer.” It was unclear how long repairs would take, she said.
While the ship underwent these repairs in Norfolk, the ship remained pierside while the crew remained onboard to preserve a COVID-free bubble.
The Navy has approved easing up restrictions for sailors who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, including permitting fully vaccinated crews to ditch restriction of movement and sequesters. But the Vella Gulf’s crew is not 100 percent vaccinated, and therefore, could not take advantage of reduced restrictions.
While some sailors complained to Navy Times about staying on the ship, Walsh said last week that Navy leaders sought to provide sailors outlets to relax.
“Throughout this delay in deployment, leadership has been keenly aware of all repair efforts, as well as the health and welfare of the crew,” Walsh said. “The ship remains in a deployed status and is maintaining a COVID-free bubble while repairs are ongoing.”
“Ship and Fleet leaders have been working hard to provide the crew opportunities for rest and relaxation,” Walsh said. “Some actions already taken include expansion of liberties (civilian clothes after hours) during off-duty time, fitness on the pier, several morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) sponsored food and fitness events, and care-package drop-off days for families.”
USNI News was the first to report the Vella Gulf was underway again.