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Investigation opened after UK nuclear submarine hits merchant vessel

There was no damage to the nuclear plant, said the defence ministry.

File photo of the sub, HMS Ambush.
File photo of the sub, HMS Ambush.
Image: Danny Lawson

A BRITISH NUCLEAR submarine has docked in Gibraltar after it collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of the territory located on Spain’s southern tip.

“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,” Britain’s defence ministry said in a statement.

We are in contact with the merchant vessel and initial indications are that it has not sustained damage.

The HMS Ambush submarine was submerged and carrying out a training exercise when it collided with the merchant vessel yesterday afternoon.

It arrived in Gibraltar later the same day to undergo further checks, the ministry said.

Torpedoes and missiles

The HMS Ambush has the capacity to carry a mix of up to 38 Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, and can target enemy submarines, surface ships and land targets with pinpoint accuracy, according to the defence ministry’s website.

The submarine is a regular visitor to Gibraltar, having stopped in the territory last month and in March.

The defence ministry said there “are no safety concerns” associated with the presence of the HMS Ambush in Gibraltar, and that it has opened an “immediate investigation” into the collision.

Environmental protests

In 2010 a British nuclear submarine, the HMS Tireless, docked in Gibraltar for repairs for nearly a year after a crack was found in a cooling pipe near its nuclear reactor, sparking fears that it could leak and contaminate the environment.

People in Gibraltar and in southern Spain staged regular protests against the HMS Tireless and it has been the subject of a high-profile direct action campaign by the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

Britain’s defence ministry did not provide details of the damage done to the HMS Ambush, saying only that “this is not a similar situation to the HMS Tireless”.

- © AFP, 2016

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