U.S. Navy Cruiser Returns to Port Twice for Corroded Fuel Tank Repair

vella gulf
Vella Gulf under way in the Persian Gulf, 2020 (USN)

Published Mar 18, 2021 8:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Vella Gulf has had to put into Norfolk for repairs twice in the span of three weeks due to a leaking fuel tank, according to U.S 2nd Fleet. 

The Vella Gulf headed out to sea on February 19 on deployment with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, but the crew found a fuel leak while under way in heavy weather. The cruiser had to return to port seven days after her departure to address the leak, using weather routing to avoid more severe surface conditions. The rest of the CSG carried on without her, heading to the Canary Islands for a series of exercises with the Moroccan Navy. 

In port at Naval Station Norfolk, the Vella Gulf underwent a technical assessment, and 2nd Fleet said in a statement that in appeared that corrosion in a single tank was the cause of the leak. “Vella Gulf remains in a deployed status, and safety measures are in place to ensure the crew remains COVID- free during the repair," the Navy said. 

After repairs, Vella Gulf got under way from Norfolk for a second time on March 13. One day later, she returned again for a "technical assessment of the repairs made" to the previously-leaking tank. 

"We are confident in the work completed to identify defects and repair the tank earlier this month,” U.S. 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh told Navy Times. “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 . . . [and] technical experts deemed the ship safe for sea and provided professional advice that informed the underway timeline.”

The USS Vella Gulf is a Ticonderoga-class cruiser commissioned in 1993. She has had an active life in service: she participated in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, and she deployed to the Middle East twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She was also one of several U.S. Navy surface combatants that responded to the hijacking of the Ukrainian ro/ro Faina, which was boarded and captured (along with a cargo of tanks, RPGs and ammunition) by Somali pirates in September 2008. 

Vella Gulf is slated for decommissioning next year, along with sister ships San Jacinto, Monterey, Hue City, Anzio and Port Royal, according to a Navy report to Congress released in December 2020.