Royal Navy Submarine Collides with Merchant Ship

Image courtesy Save the Royal Navy / twitter

By MarEx 2016-07-21 21:30:43

HMS Ambush, one of Britain's newest nuclear-powered attack submarines, was involved in a collision with an unnamed merchant vessel during an exercise on July 20.

The collision is the third accident involving a UK submarine since 2010: the HMS Talent struck ice in maneuvers while shadowing a Russian vessel last year, and the HMS Astute – the first in the Ambush's class – went aground off of Isle of Skye in 2010.  

Photos show the Ambush with damage to her conning tower. The Royal Navy issued the following statement describing the incident:


At approximately 1330 local time today, HMS Ambush, an Astute-class submarine, while submerged and conducting a training exercise was involved in a glancing collision with a merchant vessel off the coast of Gibraltar. We are in contact with the merchant vessel and initial indications are that it has not sustained damage.

The submarine suffered some external damage but there is absolutely no damage to her nuclear plant and no member of the ship’s company was injured in the incident.

An immediate investigation is being conducted.

The submarine will be entering Gibraltar later this evening for further checks. There are no safety concerns associated with HMS AMBUSH being alongside.


The Ambush began operating out of Gibraltar last month – much to the consternation of a number of local residents, who have joined Spanish citizens in protesting the presence of the nuclear-powered vessel.

The Spanish government has lodged a formal request for details on the accident. "The ministry has asked the British embassy in Madrid for urgent explanations over the extent of the breakdown and all relevant information regarding the circumstances of this incident," wrote the Foreign Ministry in a statement. 

The status of Gibraltar has been a point of contention between the governments of Spain and the UK for many years; Gibraltar's residents would prefer to remain under British administration, but Spain would prefer to recover the territory. Confrontational close quarters maneuvers between Royal Navy and Guardia Civil patrol boats in waters off Gibraltar are not uncommon.  

The chief minister of HM Government of Gibraltar said in a statement that "Gibraltar has proudly served as a port of call to provide shelter to the Royal Navy for centuries and this latest visit is no different. HMS Ambush is therefore as welcome today on the Rock as ever."

The news of the collision follows shortly after the UK Parliament chose to fund a $54 billion replacement program for the Navy's four Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarines, and not to fund the service's surveillance drone program nor (say Scottish MPs and shipyard union representatives) the Navy's latest Type 26 frigate class, which has already been scaled back several times.

First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West testified last month that there was no money for the Type 26 this year or next due to the Trident program. MoD representative Tony Douglas said Wednesday that this was not correct, and that design issues, not funding, were responsible for the delays.